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System Crash

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Last evening I was surfing the internet when my system crashed. I was on no particular website; I had closed one page and was waiting for the new to load when a screen came on the page with a large red X stating that my computer was infected with Malware and Windows was automatically loading Antivirus software to rid my computer of the problem. I tried to close the screen as I have Avast antivirus and an antimalware software previously installed on my computer that I downloaded from Geeks to Go. The computer was locked up; the small pop up screen had a tab in the top left hand corner that had the windows symbol and the title : Antivirus Software 2010. I manually turned off my computer, turned it back on, and everything began to load normally. Once windows was loaded I immediatly noticed my background page was gone and in place of it was the Windows Blue Background, my icons never came into view on the screen, and almost immediatly the same "Anitvirus software pop up" came on the screen and stated there was Malware that needed to be removed. I opened my start menu, clicked on Avast Antivirus, the scanner opened, blinked and immediatly I received a windows error message of some sort of System error. I was unable to read the entire message before the screen went blank and the system froze. I again, rebooted, this time windows would not load at all, I immediatly received a system error message. I then rebooted and tried to enter into safe mode through DOS. The safe mode option was no longer available anywhere in DOS. I am pretty knowledgeable in computers (though I do not know all of the correct "terminology") I had an issue like this a few years ago and was able to fix it myself but do not remember what I had to do. Obviously, my system has been infected with some type of virus but if I cannot log into Windows I have no idea how to fix the problem. My computer is a Dell Laptop, but since I am at work, I have no knowledge of the Model or exactly what the error message states upon booting. If that information is needed I can write it down tonight and repost tommorow since I have no other computer available at my home. If anyone can guide me on how to clean my system without loosing all of my family photos that were saved would be wonderful. I was considering restoring my system last night but was afraid I would loose personal mementoes! Thanks for any and all help!
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