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Log in / log out loop - Windows XP, possible malwear?

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Hi everyone,

(I'm a heavy computer user but my technical knowledge is zero - so apologies if this problem is badly explained!)

So... I've got a rather worrying problem with my laptop. This afternoon I ran full system scans with SpyBot Search and Destroy and AdAware. Both programs picked up a number of 'threats'. There were 2 items that could not be fully removed until the system was restarted, so I restarted the computer.

This is when the problem started. I clicked on my username, the login process started and the windows jingle played - but all I got was a brief flash of a black screen (no desktop, no start menu, no wallpaper - completely blank!) and within seconds, it had logged me out again and I was back where I started. I also tried using the Guest account, same problem.

I've tried all the different Safe Modes, I've tried the 'last known configuration', I've tried quickly pressing ctrl+alt+dlt during login - but no joy.

Apparently it's fixable if you reboot with the XP cd and do a repair installation... but the problem is, I don't have the original CD anymore (that includes the windows ID key) I moved house recently and I can't find it anywhere. If I bought a new XP cd, would it work? Or does it need to be the same CD you installed from?

I have some very important stuff on the hard drive, not all of which is backed up. I've got a USB hard disc reader, do you think I would still be able to access the data on the hard disc? Even if it's infected with something?

Please, please... if you've got any advice for how I can solve this, I'd be so grateful. It's really stressing me out!
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