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Windows/Computer Freezes at Load-up

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Alright as the topic explains... I cannot get Windows to fully boot, as it always freezes up on the "Windows is starting up..." screen. I am running Windows XP Media Center...

Here is how it began:

1) I searched the internet for how to locate IP addresses. One of the sites (approved by McAfee site advisor); gave me a "dating" pop-up. I closed the pop-up, read some more on the website; and then closed the browser.
2) I then clicked start>run; and then typed in "cmd." I then typed "ping "www. ()" as the website told me. I was then given an IP addresses as requested. I went to the internet browser (Explorer) and typed in the IP address/es, one of which was correct.
3) A McAfee pop-up came up and asked me whether I wanted to grant a program permission. I believe it was a Win/32 file (svchost). I said no, fearing that it was a virus that has been associated with "svchost."
4) Then feeling a bit worried about the pop-up/IP search, I ran McAfee and went away for awhile.
5) I came back and McAfee had detected nothing... I did a system cleanup; and then went away for a bit again...
6) I came back on and noticed a "Casino" short-cut icon on the desktop, but gave no attention to it (assumed my girlfriend had downloaded a game). I went on to my e-mail and then was given a notice: something in reference to an NT security issue; and was told that the system would have to shut down... and that I should save all applications (60 sec.) I logged off... and in 60 sec. the computer shut down and went into its logging out sequence. However, the system remained on this screen for about 5 minutes.
7) I grew impatient and did a hard crash. I then started my computer back up... and behold: the system froze at the "Windows is starting up screen." I tried a few more times; once got me to the desktop, but froze there.
8) I then hit F12 upon the next try at loading up; here I ran a hard drive test, which came back okay. I then checked the system settings... all of which seemed okay. Then chose to reboot; it worked! Upon fully loading up, McAfee prompted me with the permission of the svchost file again. This time (assuming that was what caused the initial error), I granted permission. I then restarted... and the system froze up again. After going to F12 again... the system came back up correctly, and McAfee once again prompted me for a program permission. I granted it again.
9) I went to McAfee's program permissions and two svchost files were present; I erased one (both looked the same).
10) Finally, I backed up as many files as I could and then tried a system restore from a check point about a week ago. The system restarted and froze up on the "Windows is startiing up..." screen. Now, the computer freezes at this point every time; even after going to F12.

I am confused as to what may be the problem... also, as what to do next. I have not tried running the computer in safe mode yet, but will probably do so (good idea?).

Anway, any suggestions/help would greatly be appreciated. If I can possibly provide any more details I will... Also, I am not on/near the computer in question at the present time, as I am at work.

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