Ian wrote:Since you saw hard drive errors, the hard drive might be failing. If it was me, I'd start there.
I think you came closest to nailing it, Ian. After mucking about for a few days, I finally went through the rigmarole of putting together a slipstreamed XP-SP2 disk with my wife's laptop and reinstalled XP. That seems to have done the trick. (Well, some of Earthlink's *&^! software is acting nasty, but that's a different issue.) My best guess is that the Plextor installation somehow caused the system to discover the hard drive errors that were already lurking out there. Don't know what happened to the drive itself--it appears to be in okay shape after CHKDSK repaired the file errors. Now I guess I need to decided whether to invest $80 in SpinRite to see if the drive is failing or use it to buy another hard drive and just use this one for backup.
I haven't installed any new software yet, but the Plextor drive is sitting out there, recognized by the system, and reading CDs, so things are looking okay.
Thanks for everybody for throwing ideas at me. And thanks for the heads-up on Roxio-Nero conflicts.