As my computer is now fully working (all hail Plextor!), it is the turn of Nick's machine to eat itself. Which it did once he changed the hard disk cable to an 80-wire version (required for ATA-66 and higher). Windows has for reasons known only to itself decided to munch through various registry hives, various bits of system file, and generally anything that stayed still. And now throws up when he trys to boot it.
So, we all ponder for a while on how to transfer files from one partition to another so the system one can be wiped. Refitting the original cable doesn't help. Knoppix is a non-starter, as it a) doesn't speak NTFS, and b) its X server explodes about 2 minutes after starting, and then hangs. I build a BartPE disk, which works for a while until some part of the kernel explodes (this seems to be a common occurence since swapping the cable). The BartPE one works long enough however for Nick to copy over what he wants to keep, and then he zaps the old system partition before reinstalling Windows.
Which also fell over. Read errors in the same place on 4 different Windows XP discs. I try one in my machine, and while it's got some errors there's nothing spectacularly wrong with it. Oddly enough, the files do copy as long as I'm standing next to Nick, which can only be proof of the existence of the Magic Technician's Field.
I suggest memory (having seen this before both at home and on pleaseremove's machine), and Nick gets hold of Knoppix from Dan and runs the memtest86+ image on the disc. Yup, errors galore. I grab a more recent version (1.65 as opposed to 1.20), and even more errors appear.
Nick is not happy at the moment.
Dan's also been having fun. He's just found out that VMWare auto-expands disk images, which results in ...interesting behaviour when the disk runs out of space on the Linux host. Apparently, VMWare reports it as an I/O error, and so the installer he was running in Windows kept going. Oops.