troubleshooting Question

my computer is locking up at seemingly random times.....hard drive? motherboard?

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nickg5Flag for United States of America asked on
PC
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The first computer I ever had is sitting here and will not boot up, so all my files, etc. are useless. I changed the motherboard twice and was told by the computer maker that the hard drive is preventing the pc from booting up now.

This was 6 years ago. Now my current computer is locking up. I have Windows XP and as it boots up, you get a message that "windows in starting up" then the word "welcome". My computer locked up at the Welcome screen, today. The mouse-cursor would not move. I turned off the computer and rebooted. The desktop and msn messenger came up and opened normally. I wanted to change my "status" on messenger to "appear offline" instead of "online". I moved my cursor to the down arrow and clicked and got nothing. I was locked up again. Turned it off, rebooted and now everything is fine.
Last week, it locked up while a page was loading. Down at the bottom left of the screen you'll get a "done" when the page is loaded fully. There is also a green indicator that proceeds from left to right as the page loads. Well, last week, the indicator was fully green and it stopped, another lockup.
I can not afford to lose the files, etc. I have on this computer. I have no idea or experience on how to "back up files". People have given instructions on back up but it is greek to me. I'd like to know if my motherboard is going bad or my hard drive is going bad, or other source of these lockups. I use IE. I have all the latest service packs.
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