It doesn't seem to be the drive. In fact I thought I had fixed it for a second. My hunch was correct as far as windows being stuck in safe mode and safe mode being rendered inoperable by a virus. I used the recovery console and the bootcfg /rebuild command to rebuild the boot.ini. That made windows boot normally instead of in safe mode and I was able to logon to windows. I immediately scanned for viruses and found a boatload. Seems I got a trojan downloader originally. All signs of anything nasty disappeared (popups, strange running processes) and I could restart my comp normally just fine. But my windows firewall wouldn't function, and safe mode still brought me to a blue screen error.
I should have figured a virus was still present but, frustrated at this point, I tried to fix it directly. I found that msconfig wasn't where it should be (c:\windows\pchealth\helpctr\binaries) but found a backup in another windows folder through file search and moved it. I tried starting in safe mode with f8 again, but again, was met with the blue screen stop error. But this time when I tried to boot normally I received the "A PROBLEM HAS BEEN DETECTED AND WINDOWS HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN TO PREVENT DAMAGE TO YOUR COMPUTER." error screen, so I chose last good configuration that worked. The windows xp logo pops up, the screen goes black and the cursor pops up, then suddenly before reaching the desktop it automatically reboots. It doesn't give me the "A PROBLEM HAS BEEN DETECTED" screen this time and just brings me to the blue screen of death.
It now continues this way, error detected - last good configuration - automatically reboots - blue screen. Or I choose to boot normally and get the blue screen. Rebuilding the boot.ini doesn't work. Neither does checking the disk for errors. I should mention the stop error code is slightly different now from what it was originally. Instead of 0xF7B6D528 that part is now 0xF7AAD528.
I think a virus is infecting my mbr or it's otherwise screwed up, but I'm afraid to mess with it. I read you could end up with an inaccessible drive, especially if it there is a virus. At this point I'm wondering if I can get a virus program that I could run from a bootable cd. Or if a windows installation cd could help somehow, like repairing windows installation or something, and if so, if I can use any since I never got a windows xp cd with my computer.
Again, any help or insight would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.