My father’s PC recently died and needed a new motherboard. Taking the opportunity to upgrade, we put in new RAM, CPU, but left the old hard drive.
Using the old hard-drive, the PC would go to boot and restart half way through the boot process. This was the same in safe mode as well.
A repair install was the best way to go, so I downloaded a XP SP3 retail image from Technet and wen’t along with the install process. All seemed to go well until the next major reboot after setup is complete, a smaller than normal Windows logo with a Please Wait… message at the bottom. This did not go away so after half an hour, I reset the PC.
The Welcome screen showed up, I thought all was well. I went to login as my user and a prompt appeared telling me that Windows needed to be activated before I could login. I chose Yes and allowed it to do its thing. My backdrop screen appeared, and there was a lot of disk activity for about 10 mins, before it then stopped doing anything useful. It just sat there. I could move the mouse and nothing more.
I’ve experienced a fair few encounters with WGA and most of the time, the fix involved getting to the registration wizard, by starting it from the Start->Run prompt. Once there, Windows could do its thing. Without a working explorer, no control+alt+delete to bring up task manager, I could do nothing. You cant run the wizard in safe mode either, and whilst there are some hacks to bring up a command prompt in the welcome dialog and lots of other workarounds, nothing I tried worked.
In the end I simply installed XP SP2. Because it came with IE 6 or 7 though and the installed IE was version 8 there were periodic program exceptions regarding a synchronisation app (i think what IE 8 uses to keep its RSS feed list up to date). An upgrade through windows update to internet explorer fixed that but we were reluctant to change anything. In the end, I bought Dad a bigger harddrive, a proper copy of Win7 and haven’t had to worry about it since.