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The laptop is someone else's so not aware of the how's!!
As soon as the machine is logged in, the only thing that is visible is the error message window 'windows explorer has stopped working' with the start button visible and the desktop background picture visible. As soon as the red cross icon is pressed there is no functionality apart from ctrl alt del which does allow you to view 5 options including task manager. I have removed the hard disk and done a virus scan using sophos which found 3 trojans that were allowed to be cleaned. Have put it back in the machine and same thing has happened as above.
Okay. Well the fact that the system was infected takes me out of the picture. May i suggest you post in the Am I Infected forum on this site to make sure the system is "clean". After that, if the problem persists you'll have two choices (in my opinion). The first is a repair install and if that doesn't work I'd suggest a clean start (format, reinstall). But as I said, let's make sure the system is clean first.