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As you have written that your CD ROM is working fine, then there is only one possible reasons for this, that Your BIOS is malfunctioning and you have to download and install the latest version for your system.
you could try going to the boot menu, and choosing 'last known good', but that is probably not going to work.
you should be able to run a repair off the CD....
the file is a kernel, a neccessary file used by Windows. It may have gotten corrupted or deleted.. possibly by a virus or bad hard drive sector.
get a disc, and run repair, if that doesn't fix it, you may need to re-install a fresh copy of windows, which will over-write all your data. you may be able to boot to that upgrade CD and that may have a repair option...
have or can you get a win 95/98 disk...
these disks utilize the dos enviroment...
when you boot with them you can easily get in the dos platform (c://prompt)
once there type in fdisk and follow instructions.
you can also do this from usb ..you need to make usb bootable first.
you may be able to use xp disk and choose repair which will take you to the dos prompt.
you may be able to format hd with vista disk and before it start to install files interrupt it(remove disk)
not advisable though.
if you want program to create bootable usb let me know.
I'll need youre email address to send via attachment.
If it is locking up because of corupt software then booting from a cd should allow you to reload a new os. But this sounds like a harware issue. If you install Visat on anything make sure it can handle it first. Vista take a monster machine minimun requirements are just that at min requiremnts it runs crippled.
If you are able, when the pc is booting up keep pressing F8, this will take you to safe mode and not allow the graphics driver to run.
When in the safe mode options, select either Last known good configuration or start windows in safe mode.
Last known good configuration should find the last good system settings, when it reboots.
Start windows in safe mode allows you to go into windows using the administartor account, and then you should select system restore and restore back to the day before or just before you updated the graphics driver.