My husband has an HP Pavilion laptop running Windows XP Home Edition Version 2002 SP3.
He has several old (DOS era, or maybe Windows 95) programs installed on it, that we've never been able to install let alone run on newer operating systems, including the XP emulator on Windows 7. Also he has a couple of old HP printers that are not compatible with newer operating systems. He has a Windows 7 laptop he can use for the internet and more modern software and printers, but we really need to get this old XP running again. He uses these programs in his work, and they're pretty much not replaceable.
Some time back the HP XP computer was getting slower and slower, for weeks and months, and then all of a sudden all that would appear on the screen would be the wallpaper with only 2 or 3 icons none of which would do anything, although the cursor would move around the screen. There was no Start button or taskbar, either. After awhile (a day or two) the screen (monitor) quit working.
We're actually not completely sure about that exact sequence of events. He thinks it was as described above, I think it was slow computer, failed monitor, connected to old CRT type monitor and it worked OK for at least a few days, then wallpaper only.
Regardless, at that point I (the wife) volunteered to see what I could do.
I moved the HP XP computer out to the kitchen where I have a Windows 7 laptop (where I'm typing this) as well as a Windows 10 laptop. I connected the HP XP laptop to an NEC flatscreen monitor, and found that I could boot into safe mode OK.
However there's evidently an incompatibility between the monitor and the XP settings, somehow, as every time I boot to safe mode I have to adjust in order to get all the desktop icons to show, as well as the Start button and taskbar:
ctrl-esc ==> Control Panel ==> Display ==> Settings ==> Screen Resolution More ==> Apply ==> OK ==> Fn4 toggle monitor off ==> Fn4 toggle monitor on
It appears that most of my husband's programs work in Safe Mode, but not the printers, so now I'm trying to get the computer to boot in whatever one calls "not safe mode" - regular mode?
First I tried doing a System Restore back to the oldest restore point available (several months back); he thought the computer had been getting slow before then, but maybe not. At any rate it didn't help.
It took me a week or more to back up the HP XP's hard drive to an external drive, because there were a lot of files with too-long names and other anomalies, but eventually I got it done. I also ran an old-fashioned chkdsk, from the "Run" option under the Start button.
I have Kaspersky Pure as well as Malwarebytes on my Windows 7 computer, so I ran both on the external hard drive backup; there were a few PUPs but nothing else. Then I downloaded Malwarebytes to my husband's HP (still in safe mode) and ran it there. Whatever little PUP or adware type defects I found on the external drive, I deleted on the HP XP.
Next, I read somewhere that the problem we're having could be due to a corrupted user, so I tried adding a new user, but I never could figure out how to get XP to ask which user should log on. In safe mode it asks, but not on a normal boot. At any rate, after adding and deleting new users with and without Admin privileges, I'm back to just the Administrator and the one other user. I also think I read somewhere that Windows XP Home won't boot to Administrator except in Safe Mode, so I could believe that the other user is corrupted, except the fact that it never asked which user I wanted makes me think it's quitting before it gets to that point.
During all of the above I could log into Safe Mode, adjust the Display settings, and poke around. But whenever I let it try to boot without Safe Mode, it went to the wallpaper only, no taskbar, no Start button.
However at some point, I think while I was adding and deleting users, I quit getting the wallpaper; now when I try to book without Safe Mode, I end up with just a blank screen.
The last thing I've been trying, the past week or so, is changing the various options in the msconfig System Configuration Utility - Normal Startup, Diagnostic Startup, different permutations of the choices under Selective Startup. None of it makes any difference - when I reboot without F8-Safe Mode, here's what happens:
1. Turn on computer
2. Very quick black-and-white HP logo
3. Microsoft Windows XP colored flag with 3 blue dots scooting left to right, maybe 20-30 seconds
4. Then nothing - no display of any kind - this is where the plain wallpaper with no Start button or taskbar used to appear.
5. Plain black screen just stays there; I've left it on as long as an hour; the disk activity indicator light blinks intermittently, like it's doing something. Neither ctrl-alt-del nor ctrl-esc nor fn-F4 makes any difference. All I can do is turn it off with the power button, and re-boot in Safe Mode.
Oh - one other thing - when I make the System Configuration changes, I always get an error message:
An Access Denied error was returned while attempting to change a service. You may need to log on using an Administrator account to make the specified changes.
However the changes do appear to take - I googled the error message and found several folks who said it's a conflict with Norton, that doesn't stop the action going through.
Sorry this got so long - I summarize the problem as "Windows XP will only boot in Safe Mode" - thanks in advance for what to try next.