Long post, so apologies in advance but I'll give you a play by play of what I've done so that hopefully you can offer some insight on how to resolve this issue.
Working on a HP Pavillion, pretty much stock, about 5 years old. Acquired a virus that didn't seem to be malicious in terms of deleting files, etc but it would reboot the machine every few minutes. Ended up formatting both drives and attempted to install XP Professional. It would start the setup, format the partition, copy the necessary files to the Windows Install folder, and then reboot as it should. However, upon rebooting, you would not be taken to the blue Windows screen where you begin to 'customize', instead, it was stuck in a circle and went back to restarting setup. It was *not* booting off the CD, setup was just not happening.
Thought perhaps BIOS had issues or the motherboard was on the way out so I found another PC to work with (Sony) and moved that hard drive onto my computer. It booted up perfectly and worked fine. To me, that says it's not my computer. So I purchased a new hard drive and attempted to load XP onto that with my machine. No go. Moved the new hard drive onto the other machine and attempted again. No go. Switched to the other hard drive I had (originally D) and tried to load XP on that on the other computer. No go.
I had a suspicion that perhaps my CD was a bit off so I acquired XP Home with the SP2. I first tried to load that onto the new hard drive in the other computer. I was able to get through the complete install (or so I thought/think), yet when I arrived at the Desktop, I was only allowed to "Turn Off" or "Reboot" as "Standby" was grayed out. It reboots fine, but it cannot boot from the hard drive after it is powered off. It asks for a boot device. I tried this CD with both of my hard drives on both of the computers, same result.
This is where it goes above my head as I am unable to narrow down to where the problem is. The latest suggestion that I was given was issues with the Master Boot Record, that somehow it was turned off. I will be acquiring software to deal with that in the next few days, however, I was hoping that some of you may have some other insight.
I don't want to spend a few hundred dollars to have someone 'fix' this when I could easily buy another low end computer, but frankly, I don't have the money to buy either a new computer or pay someone to fix this. And honestly, it's just frustrating to think of paying someone to look at this when it doesn't seem (logically) to me that there should be a problem. I can handle a nasty file killing virus that destroys something beyond my ability to fix, but this, no-- (not sure if that made any sense).
Congrats if you've made it to the end of this. I would appreciate any and all suggestions (oh, and sympathy is also welcomed)