First thing to mention is that I have a new 58x CD-ROM (brand is EPO I think). That had seemed to install smoothly, and I was able to play music and games from CD for a full day without any problems.
The next day (yesterday) I tried to install a new video card... after much searching & trying, I decided to give up for the day and wait for a more experienced friend to help me.
I put EVERYTHING back the way it was before attempting the video install, and went to play an adventure game (Syberia, to be specific). 2 or 3 times, the game froze, and the only way to unlock was to hard reboot. However, things seemed normal after each reboot, and I returned to my game.
BUT, later on, just before I decided to quit for the night (if only I'd decided five minutes earlier!!), the game froze again - it was between scenes, and had faded to black, and then nothing happened. Nothing responded, no alt-tab, no ctl-alt-delete... so I did what I'd done before, and turned off the machine.
This time, when I booted up, I saw all the normal stuff, messages and stuff, windows98 splash screen, etc, but at the point where the screen goes black, and then the desktop usually appears, it stayed black. I heard my startup soundclip, and I heard the usual noise for the usual length of time while the system tray populated, I just couldn't see anything on my screen. Luckily I knew how to do a windows shutdown blind with just the keys, and I heard my shutdown soundclip, and then the "windows 98 is shutting down" splash screen DID appear as usual.
Tried restarting a few times, and basically the screen will load in safe mode, but otherwise no, and in safe mode I can't find the problem.
Consulted my guru friend (incidentally, the one who had installed the CD-ROM drive, and who had told me to wait on installing the video card until I was fully sure I knew how to), and he insists that it was screwing with the video card that caused this problem. I think it's probably either the game itself (I read some online about crash problems that should have been corrected with the patch for it I had already downloaded & installed before playing), or it's the new CD-ROM.
Anyone ever seen something like this?
(And no, I'm not typing this blind, I'm on a friend's computer
p.s. thanks to those who gave me advice yesterday about the video card.