Well, alright, here's my problem right from the start, as clearly as I can lay it out:
I have an AMD Athlon 700MHz processor in an FIC motherboard. A 10/100 Ethernet card, a Montego Bay Turtle Beach Quadzilla Audio Card, Voodoo 3 3000 AGP video card, US Robotics 56K modem, 512MB of 168pin DIMM RAM, Creative Labs 52X CD-ROM, Lite-On 52X CD-RW, a 3.5" floppy and 2 HDDs.
Here's how this started - I bought the Lite-On drive to replace an older CD-RW drive that had conked out. I shut down the computer, disconnected the power, disconnected the IDE cables and so forth from the old CD-RW drive, set the new Lite-On to be Master on the secondary IDE, and the Creative labs ROM drive to Slave. Blew all the dust out of the case I could, closed it up and switched it on thinking to load drivers and the burning software that came w/ the drive. At this point I have installed nothing new in the way of software. I am/was running Windows 98 second Edition. The boot-up proceeded normally until it got to the Windows 98 splash screen. At this point it froze and loaded nothing else. I rebooted. Again, same spot, froze. Thought the new drive messed something up, so I put the old drive back in, and it still froze in the same place. Tried Safe Mode. Was able to get into Windows. Went back and tried to load Windows by telling the computer Y/N to all drivers and so forth at boot-up. Computer froze up when Audio drivers were loaded. Skipped those. Got into Windows in normal mode. Uninstalled audio card and all software. Rebooted. Loaded windows. Froze at desktop. Physically removed audio card from motherboard. rebooted. froze at desktop. Several of my friends are computer science majors, recommended moving all data from C: onto D: (larger storage HDD). Did so and reformatted C: entirely. Booted from A: on start-up disc, re-installed Windows. Worked fine with only video card, keyboard, mouse, both CD drives and both HDDs connected. Replaced Audio card thinking if it messed things up it had to be the culprit. It did.
I got a blue screen error when Windows tried to set up drivers when it located the new hardware. reformatted. Reinstalled Windows, omitted Audio card this time. Went to reinstall modem. Also got blue screen error. reformatted. this time got a blue screen during setup saying there was an exception OE error in a long string of numbers and letters involving a .VXD file. My limited expertise is lost here. I rebooted when this happened the last time, and it finished setting up Windows. I got in and it allowed me to setup the Voodoo card and monitor, and I also got the Ethernet card to work (which is how I am writing this now). I am afraid to try to set anything else up as it seems my internet connection is shaky at best and I keep getting dropped. (this is uncommon with my ISP) I don't relish the idea of investing all the immense time and effort of setting everything up on C: here again if it's going to be unstable.
I'm not sure (obviously) what the problem is. I had thought perhaps something with the motherboard, but alot of what I have heard and read seems to indicate that if the motherboard were bad I'd get a beep-code error message at boot or perhaps nothing at all? Perhaps the slots on the board are bad? I have 5 PCI, 1 ISA, and 1 AGP. it has been suggested that maybe the copy of Windows I am using is corrupt somehow, or that the RAM bricks I'm using are somehow bad. I've never encountered any kind of hardware problems with this machine in the past, it has run near flawlessly from the start, so this is disconcerting to say the least. I can't think of anything I could have done to cause this, so I'm not sure what to look into replacing or fixing. ANYTHING anyone can tell me at this point would be appreciated, as I've done everything I can think of to alleviate the problem. Hopefully it won't come down to replacing the MB since I'd have to get a new processor and RAM most likely to fit the newer DDR slots, and i really would love to save some money. But if that's what it takes, I'd like to know WHAT to replace so I am not buying new parts to replace things that still work fine.
Thank you SO much in advance.