The Dell Inspiron 6000 I repaired a while ago is back. It had to be wiped and have XP re-installed as it was just too blown away by malware and her efforts to DIY it.
Fast forward a couple months and now the machine can only boot into Safe no network and Safe with CMD prompt. If you boot regular you get this warning: "This copy of Windows must be activated before you can log on". Options are yes or no. If you select no the machine shuts down. If you select yes the desktop appears, no start/task bar, some HDD activity then nothing. Leave it for hours and nothing. (of course this was all my fault. must have been something I did to the machine when I first repaired it.)
Next I go to Safe mode and run this: rundll32.exe syssetup,SetupOobeBnk
That resets the 30 day activation clock. I can now boot regular, log on and get start/task bar.
Next I try to run the activation wizard. Click on it all you want, nothing happens. I go to open IE, going to browse to Microsoft site and see how to activate. I notice that it is IE6 that opens. Come to find out, Activation Wizard rely's on IE to run. But it would seem it has to be IE7 or 8.
So that leaves me with asking, what happens when a user removes IE? I know from my own experience that if I remove IE8 and reboot the machine, IE7 will then be in Add/Remove. Did this user remove IE7 which then caused issues with Windows Update, Windows Validation, and somehow screwed up the previously activated license?
Finally got machine back up to IE8 and had to run Windows Updates to get everything from SP2 to SP3 and the most recent updates re-installed. It would appear that with the removal of IE by the user it had also somehow removed all Windows Updates.
I still have not found a definitive answer on this and maybe some day I will try removing all IE versions off a machine and see if I can duplicated this situation.
Oh, as a side note, when I first worked on this woman's machine she had renamed the IE start menu icon: "DO NOT USE MESSES UP COMPUTER".
Anthony C. Goodwin