Mac Problem, PC nerd knows little in the ways of Mac

I'm gonna go ahead and admit I'm like a small monkey playing with sticks when I sit down in front of a Mac that isn't functioning properly.  Our entire network is comprised of PCs, and one lone user in the group is using a Mac.  

A week ago he was complaining that adobe wouldn't print to his local printer.  After reinstalling adobe and toying around with some settings I went to the ol' standby and tried restarting the computer.  Well prior to the restart it was running Mac OS 10.1.5 and after restarting it booted into OS 9.2.x! I was utterly confused and couldn't figure out how to boot back into OS X (again, monkey with sticks) so I put in the OS X install disc that came with the Mac.  After letting it reinstall for a bit it came up to the login screen with the users login name and everything looked normal.  Except now after entering the password it just sits there spinning the beach ball.  If I hit control+escape it brings up the force quit menu, and I can see multiple copies of Finder starting/running.  It fills the entire window.  

So anything, any kind of advice at this point would be an improvement.  We're already considering purchasing a PC and just surplussing the mac.  
dwhend0Asked:
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Eoin OSullivanConsultantCommented:
OMG .. sounds like a real mess.

Since you've pretty much confused the Mac .. it might be time for a CLEAN install. It would appear you may have 2 copies of OSX installed or something like that.

Sounds like the Mac is a few years old as you are running a dated version of OSX 10.1.5 .. in fact it is as old as XP pre- SP1 so you will have to rely on the Installation CDs to restore the Mac. It should actually have a System Restore CD which will get it back to its original settings.
Can you tell us the model and make of Mac?

If you REALLY want to try recover the Mac then Insert the OSX system CD and restart. When the mac starts booting up .. hold down the letter C .. this will boot it from teh CD .. on the first screen of the installation menu .. look in the top right  beside the apple icon and select the Disk Utility menu, run the repair disk and repair permissions commands ... this may help

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dwhend0Author Commented:
I attempted a repair but it will still not login correctly.  Before I do a clean install is there any other way to get into the system?  The user is really hoping I can find a way to recover his email since he used POP.  
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Tom RayCommented:
option 1:
if OS9 and OSX are on seperate partitions, boot while holding down the "X" key or "COMMAND" and "X" (command key is the key with the apple logo on it).

option 2:
Hold down "COMMAND" and "OPTION" until the 2nd chime, should boot into OS9

option 3:
boot up using an OS9 cd, copy off the mail, and reinstall or run other utilities
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Eoin OSullivanConsultantCommented:
What Mail program did the user have ?? Apple Mail under OSX or Entourage?
IF Apple Mail the mailboxes and all messages are stored in the users/Library/Mail folder

If it was Entourage then look in the Users/Documents/Microsoft User Data folder
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dwhend0Author Commented:
All three helped so I tried to split best I could.  Thanks for all the help guys.  Got booted into 9.2, backed up the email and got a clean install going right now.  
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