I have a Dell 4550 that's been running Windows XP (including SP2) fine for some time. Last week I tried to upgrade Adobe Reader from Ver7 to Ver8, and things started going bad. The system seemed to be confused about which version was installed, and I couldn't get it straightened out. I attempted a System Restore, which unfortunately, also failed, and the system became hung. Prior to this event, I had periodically run AdAware and Spybot, as well as running McAfee VirusScan. Windows firewall was also enabled.
Booting from the XP disc provided by Dell (SP1), I first tried to repair the OS. Windows would at least boot, but other things were weird. I was unable to right click on the desktop to change the display properties (since I wanted to change the default resolution). The Firefox browser would not open at all, and Opera would open but would lock up as soon as I tried to enter a URL. IE7 would at least open, but I was unable to access the internet. (My network is a Linksys WRT54GS router with two wireless connections, and two wired connections, one of which is the PC I'm now having trouble with.) I was also unable to access the router through its IP address using IE. From the Device Manager dialog, it appeared drivers were installed, including drivers for the Intel chipset and the PCI ethernet card (NIC card?). I was able to run the NIC diagnostics successfully, and unplugging the ethernet cable did register in the system tray as having a network cable unplugged.
Since that didn't work, I then restarted the Dell boot CD from within Windows. At some point I got a choice of doing an "Upgrade" or a "New Install (Advanced)", and I chose "upgrade". I entered my authentication code and proceeded with the upgrade until it got to the point where I needed to activate XP. I selected the option to activate over the internet, and that's where it is now. A message on the screen says "checking for connectivity", and it's been that way for several hours. Behind the message window, I can see the Windows desktop, or at least my wallpaper image, but nothing else is happening.
So here I am, hopelessly confused, filled with questions, and eager for input. Here's a few questions for your consideration:
1. It seems to me the Dell XP disc can be used either to initiate the reinstallation (or upgrade) from within Windows, or it can be used as a boot disc. Is one way better than the other, or does it just depend on the state of the system?
2. Is the activation process smart enough to figure out I have a router and cable modem in order to complete the activation process? If so, any thoughts on why it isn't able to complete it? Would I have any better luck bypassing the router? (I've considered whether the NIC card could be bad, but given I had been accessing the internet just fine prior to the repair process, I'd be surprised if the card really is a problem. I could be wrong though.)
3. Accessing the router through IE by typing in the IP address seems to be a straight forward process, though as I said I couldn't even do that. Is there something basic I overlooked?
4. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the inability to access the router/internet, but I also am confused as to why I was unable to open Firefox or use Opera. Any thoughts there?
In hindsight, I may have acted prematurely in doing the Windows upgrade since the system was at least somewhat functional before doing so. However, I'm past that now and simply looking for any help I can get to get me back on track. I've optimistic that I've come to the right place for this one. I appreciate any help offered.