I start up my mother in laws computer and she has not start menu no icons nothing. I can acess task manager and commpand prompt. She thinks she has gotten a virus where it has hidden everything as when you click create a new task under file you can see the file names. However if you click any of them it says "This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the Folder Options control panel." However I do not know how to access the control panel. If anyone has any suggestions on how to fix it please let me know as I am at lost for words. She also has Windows XP do not know if that matters or not.

Hi, Kristen, just as a quick test start explorer.exe from Task Manager [File, New Task... explorer.exe] or from the cmd prompt [TM again, File, Ctrl-click New Task.. explorer.exe]. That should give the desktop back.
If that is the case, then please show me the content of this registry key by pasting this as one line into your cmd window:

reg query "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon" /v shell > C:\shell_reply.txt & start C:\shell_reply.txt 

Post the content of the notepad that pops.