This just in—
Okay, here's the update on my ailing computer. Maybe now Newsweek, CNN and Burrowing Rodent Monthly will stop calling.
A couple of nights ago, with no other options available, I bit the bullet and reinstalled WinXP on our machine. It was not the complete, format-the-hard-disk and start from scratch reinstall, it was the repair-an-existing-installation option. It's still a full install, but all your programs, files and settings are preserved.
To my shock—after reading various prophecies of doom on the net—this seems to have worked pretty well. I was lucky to have a separate CD with Service Pack 2 to bring the system mostly up to date.
Then I logged on to catch up on Windows updates. 41 MB worth, as it turned out. Those installed without any error messages at all. Very encouraging, but then encouragement is not always your friend.
Now all I have to do is figure out why every time I log in, Windows Explorer starts up in the Windows\system32 folder. I suspect some rogue game download has left its scat in my Startup folder. Time to clean up another mess.