Windows XP cannot run exe or regedit and taskmanager disappears

I have a users laptop running xp home. it had the problem where as soon as it logs in at the welcome screen it logs straight back off again. I tried all the suggestions and eventually got in by doing the manual restore described on this site (copying the files manually while in recovery console). This has allowed me to access windows but there is still lots wrong. If I try to open a command it closes within seconds, Same thing with task manager. I cannot run any executables and cannot open system restore. I cannot open regedit either. Because I can't install anything I cannot do a scan (it only had an out of date norton antivirus installed). Any ideas what I can do before re-installing the entire system?
susanhendersonAsked:
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programmer1024Commented:
Have you tried booting to safe mode? If that didn't work, it may come down to re-installing the entire system.
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susanhendersonAuthor Commented:
yes. I've tried safe mode. I couldn't get in at all at first but as I said I eventually restored manually.
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johnb6767Commented:
Pull the HDD out and slave it to another machine and do a full scan for viruses.....
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susanhendersonAuthor Commented:
Ok. That is not so easy with the laptop. I think I'll just pull the data off and wipe the machine.
Thanks
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johnb6767Commented:
LAPTOP to IDE HARD DRIVE ADAPTER
http://www.bay-wolf.com/hddadapter.htm

This is what I was thinking of......
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