My girlfriend have a laptop running Windows XP – or, well, it used to run Windows XP. Right now it does nothing at all. When booting the machine, it gets past the Windows splash screen fine, and the user logon dialog is displayed. At this point, it seems like an elf within Windows starts an egg-clock, getting ready to freeze the image on the screen when it runs out of time.
If I login right away, the desktop will load, and I will have enough time to expand the start menu and hit a random button before Windows locks up. If, on the other hand, I am busy drawing unicorns on my sketch pad, the elf will get impatient and freeze the login dialog on the screen instead.
From the little I know about Windows troubleshooting, I know about the super-secret boot menu which can be called forth by tapping F8 repeatedly just before the Windows splash screen. This has allowed me to boot the machine into "safe mode" and "safe mode with networking". Apparently, the elf doesn't know about this backdoor.
So, I am in "safe mode" now. What can I do here? If I understand "safe mode" correctly, it avoids loading third-party drivers that might bring the system down. Are there any log files I can review, searching for elf nests or misbehaving drivers? Or should I simply pick a random device and uninstall it from the device manager, reboot into "unsafe mode" and repeat if it didn't help?
Formatting and reinstalling Windows is of course an option, but I would really like to avoid having to spend days installing and configuring software…