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"performing automatic IDE configuration"

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I'm not sure if this is an XP or hardware problem so I'm posting in both forums, if this is wrong, please delete this or my other post.

So I'm running a Dell Dimension 4600, XP SP2

I was playing a game and when I quit to my desktop I noticed everything was running pretty sluggish. It took me a while (unresponsive programs) but I was able to close all open applications. When I tried to restart, it wouldn't. I would select the option or shut down and nothing would happen. After trying to shut down multiple times, I manually turned my comp off by holding in the power button. When I turned it backon I was greated with the msg: "We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start succesfully......" I then have the options to start in safe mode, safe mode w/ networking, safe mode w/ command prompt, last known configuration, or start windows normally. I tried the last to options, but to no avail, It kept bringing me back to the same menu. I manually turned off the comp and unplugged it. When I put the plug back in, it powered up. only this time I got a weird message that had "performing automatic IDE configuration" in it. I restarted again and I got the "We appologize..." msg again. What's going on? Did my HD die? Please, any help is much appreciated.
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