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This is one of strangest problems I have encountered. I have a Dell Optiplex 170L that would not boot, It appeared that either HDD was bad or OS was damaged. I checked the HDD with a manufactures disk and it appeared to be ok. I then attempted to reinstall the OS (XP Home) with the Dell OS disk. After the format, it starts loading files at the Soundrec file it stops with error. I have tried several windows OS versions of XP (just to see if I could get past this point) I have tried Ubuntu nothing works. I have ,used memtest on memory for 24hrs. no errors. I have switched out IDE cables , HDD's,Tried other CD/DVD units, switched PSU all to no avail. Can anyone give me an idea of what the problem might be.
 

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i would take it down to minimum config - motherboard/psu/harddrive/cpu/memory and see if that works at all

Ubuntu would not load - what happens ?

try downloading ultimate boot cd - and creating a boot cd
http://www.ubcd4win.com/
and run some of those tests
 
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