The only change to the system was that I installed an internal SATA . I had never had a SATA HD until this one. When I tried to boot up to PC, I got the missing hal.dll error.
I physically uninstalled the HDD and tried to boot again. same missing =hal.dll error.
I tried to install the hal.dll file by going into system repair and using the "expand" command. I got a "path not vaild" error. I looked on the disc in windows explorer and i see the hal.dll file on the disc. I also see it in my system. I thought maybe both files are corrupt, but I used the same XP disc to install XP on the laptop that i am on now and everything works fine on the laptop.
So... i tried to boot up from the disc. I was able to do that, although I was getting lots of errors when trying to do so. The errors were files that weren't loading. I would eject the disc and put it back in and that seemed to work.
Then... I finally tried to re-install XP on the PC. mad mistake. Now, all my drivers aren't working on several things. The PC still won't boot up on its own... only boots up from the disc. Can't connect to internet on PC because my ethernet controller won't work.
I did try system restore several times during all of this... wouldn't work.
Now... the system is VERY slow in just getting through the memory check and checking IDE drives when I turn it on.
This leads me to believe that maybe all of this was due to my MB dying slowly.
I don't know if this matters, but the MB is a Gigabyte 865PE