I must be really unlucky OR Why 2GB is better
Finally figured out the core of one of my issues: Bad RAM
All kinds of chaos from random program exits, to windows update failure. And after 3 OS installs or so I decide to use my last blank CD to run memtest86 and bingo, oodles of RAM errors. Luckily my RAM had a duel channel setup for 2GB which would've sucked if it was one stick.
My ram setup was like this:
Stick A in slot 1, Stick B in slot 2
I do the first test by removing stick B from the board, still get errors.
I then remove stick A and place stick B in slot 1.
Bingo! No errors! (I'm a lot better at this point because I know it's not a bigger issue)
Just to be sure, I insert stick A in slot 2 and it causes errors again.
I can now assume that stick A is a bad stick.
All the errors had the 2nd bit wrong, so it must be something with that. if memtest did FFFFFFFF it would probably have FCFFFFFF with the C bit always being the wrong one.
So now i'm down to 1GB but it sure beats not having a PC, I can probably get the OS to install properly now.
This was premium OCZ ram too, i'm just about to head to their site to see about getting it replaced. I'll let you guys know how it works out.
This gives a few lessons that I've and others should learn.
1) Dual Channel RAM is also failsafe compared to a single stick
2) ALWAYS run memtest86 before installing OS/etc, it really saves a lot of problems
3) In hindsight, a floppy drive might not have been a bad idea. I gotta go buy more CDs now. :-P