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striking reality
Okay, so that's basically the only thing I need to do right now. Long story short, the MBR/partitions on my laptop are now "funky", and Windows is complaining that HAL.DLL is corrupted or missing (which it isn't). What's new.

The problem, and the irony, are that I was trying to resize my partitions and free up the 4GB of recovery crap Acer sets in a tiny partition before the WinXP partition, and that seems to be the solution to this. My friend has a copy of that on disc so I'll try using it on Monday, but is there any quick fix to this?

The obvious solution would be to boot a WinXP CD and run the recovery console--well guess what, it freezes at "Windows is starting Setup...", after all the friggin drivers are loaded.

Note that I only need to fix the boot record so Windows will stop bitching and load properly. PartitionMagic didn't touch the WinXP partition (which happens to be FAT32). I need a solution that DOES NOT INVOLVE LOADING WINDOWS OR A WINDOWS SETUP CD. On another note, I may install *NIX on this at a later time. Now is NOT that time for much of the hardware in that laptop is still unsupported, namely the wireless and graphics cards.

I hope someone can come up with an idea... :cry2:
There's an actual fixmbr command inside the recovery console. chkdsk in recovery console fixes partition information, although it seems to be intact since Norton Ghost can see them.

Too bad I can't get to it (recovery console) because Windows Setup never actually loads...:mad:
Besides that fact, fixmbr is very likely to destroy all partition data. It will make it to where you can't even access ANY data on ANY partiton, since it will simply corrupt them. Now, that is just what has happened to me a few times, but anyhow... Also, what partitons do you have right now, and what size are they?
You would have to use a Windows XP Install CD and in setup select "Repair" rather than install. This will go over a Windows Installation and recover the OS and all the files and records it needs to boot but will not delete your data or most of your settings.
The consensus from talking to multiple people is that the laptop is generally cranky. It's going to the depot for repair if the recovery CD doesn't work.

Conscript: That was the idea, but if you had read the posts they said that after Windows is done loading files into memory it just stops. :rolleyes:
Run DFT yet?

Get Ultimate Boot CD and run DFT and MemTest.... Let's see if there is any hardware issues.

DFT Will tell you if you have a bad hard drive. Oftentimes from my experience funkyness during installs is caused by a had hard drive.
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Okay, here's how it turned out...

Acer's logic board (don't know why...) wrote a 1 cylinder partition at the beginning of the HD after finding out that I had erased the PQSERVICE partition. That was the cause of all the problems. I booted into KNOPPIX 4.0.2 and removed it, and now all is well. Thanks for the help though. :p