So two and a half days of reinstalls and XP still isn't working right. IE 7, windows update and other things just aren't working. The deal breaker is when I can't get any anti virus or Quicken to load.
I make some calls. I talk to some people who assure me that indeed I have to push the Big Red Button. They told me to do this originally but I though I could do this half-assed. Several friends admit that they do a re-install twice a year. I back up 72 GIGs of info onto a portable hard drive. I scan it with an online virus scan. I triple check for info I need to have. And then, I wipe the drive.
While the system formats I take a shower. It's a spiritual as well as physical cleansing. I have lost almost an entire week because of my mistake. And there is NO guarantee that my work, pictures, music or anything will still work when I restore it.
When it's done I start the reload. This time it goes much faster and workes much better. I get a LOT of hard drive space back. I download 82 security updates to XP. I restore my documents and so far (knock on wood) it all looks good. One of the most annoying things is trying to remember user names and passwords from various sites.
It is done. This system is clean.