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I'm sorry to say this but these are signs of your computer's hard drive crashing. Hard drives (from what I've been told by other experts) typically crash after about 4-6 years of intense use. That's why I always recommend people backing up their important files every year. This has happened to my laptop before, I've had the same symptoms.
Now what about your files?
Well if you're lucky, you can ask a Geek Squad rep. from Best Buy or anyone else with proper experience to try to salvage your hard drive. Anyway you'd have to buy a new hard drive and replace your crashed one.
Solution: Take your computer to an expert to help you recover your hard drive files and replace the hard drive.
take the hard drive to a local computer guru... recovery will depend on what caused the crash, and what has happened since then. Basically, he or she will need to try to boot your hard drive with another tower, or pull all the info directly from the disks themselves. If you had to ask this question, you're gonna need help to fix it.... Sorry.
Yes any data recovery place will be able to astract whatever was written on that disk as long as it has not taking a serious fall you can get your data recovered under $15 a GIG so yes take it in if it is that important to you.
Your hard drive is probably crashing or has crashed. You need to start your computer with an XP CD and try to use the repair function. You'll be able to tell if the hard drive is still working or not once you run the repair function. Let me know what happens or if you run into any problems.
Some bios use F5 for a one time boot sequence. If lucky you'll get this option to choose cd rom as first boot device.
You can remove the Cmos battery for about 3 min. It is the small round watch looking type battery on the motherboard. This may reset all defaults in case of hardware/software conflicts.
If nothing still try a new Hard Drive.
YES I would say you have crashed because it is "just stuck". But this doesn't mean your computer is fried.
Try these things if your want let me know what happens and I'll try to help from there.
There is a recovery option with the xp installation disk that will fix your master boot and boot record on Hard Drive. If your interested let me know!