Can't boot into safe mode or from cd, blinking cursor on black screen

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My son has a small Optiplex SX270 lunchbox style computer that I can't boot up. I can get into F12 and F2, but I can't get into safe mode. It will not boot from a CD. When it starts up, it appears to start loading the OS (Windows XP), but after a couple seconds the screen goes black and I see nothing except a blinking cursor in the upper left corner. There are no POST beeps. The only selection I can choose from F12 is number 5 (IDE drive diagnostics). It runs and tells me that the hard drive passes. Any ideas on what I can do to make this computer boot up?
Even though it says the HDD passes, i would say by by HDD. If your sure the HDD is fine, then your windows is corrupted and needs to be reinstalled, but when you do formatt the HDD first to make sure you have a clean surface to install on. you can try using something like Hirens.BootCD.10.2 to search for more of what is going on.
try google, there are a few tricks to try . one was to disconnect the HD and start the computer. when you bet the error no OS, turn off and hook up the HD and restart. makes no sense to me but all it costs is time.
also could be a driver issue
the suggestion to unhook the hdd and try to boot from a disc is a good idea. also, it sounds like your boot order could be changed to boot the optical drive before the hdd, i'd make sure that sequence is correct.
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