5teve wrote:i personally think its a dodgy hdd controller on the board.
That seems like a reasonable possibility given all the information you have supplied. (Same problem on two different drives, same problem with different cables, no problem with disc itself in other computers, no errors measured on disc, etc.) I suppose there is a chance that Microsoft did something to make the XP disc difficult to copy correctly, but I haven't heard about any copy protection on it, and with their activation procedure I wouldn't think they would care about it being copied. Anyone else have success installing XP from a backup copy? I would suggest trying the install from the original XP disc just for completeness.
By the way, what is your EIDE controller?