Where to begin...? There are so many possible issues here...
On the one hand, it could be a hardware issue. Or it could be a virus or some other form of malware, or it could be some new piece of hardware that is causing problems.
If you have access to another computer, try downloading one of the plethora of Linux trial CDs - the ones where you burn the Linux image to a CD and can boot from it. Simply put this will tell you at least one important thing - if it's a hardware or software issue. Odds are if the hardware is FUBAR, then it won't load properly either.
On the other hand, if it does load properly, you will have the option of backing up any files you haven't already backed up. You should be able to plug in a USB based drive and copy the files to the external drive.
At this point, you can of course, either try a repair installation OR you can blow out the hard drive and do a fresh, clean installation. With XP, it's generally best to clean installation. Granted, it's more work doing it that way, but its also more reliable.
if it's a hardware issue,... You will likely need/want a new system - and depending on the system, you can possibly replace the motherboard, CPU and RAM (and potentially the hard drive if that's the problem) - or you can simply replace the entire system with a newer one. But don't throw out the hard drive just yet. You can possibly restore data from it by removing it and putting it in an external enclosure once you've got the system up and running.
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