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hal.dll missing repeatedly in XP pro SP3 after updates - NO BOOT

Last week, after applying some of the usual security and general XP updates that are downloaded via Automatic Updates, the computer rebooted and gave the message:
"<windows>\system32\hal.dll is missing or corrupt"
The computer would not boot from any of the options via F8 (including "Last Good Config" and "Safe Mode")
I booted from the XP CD and started the Recovery Console.  Confirmed hal.dll was present, then tried the following (rebooting after each try):
1) copied hal.dll from \windows\system32\dllcache to system32
2) Deleted boot.ini, then ran bootcfg /rebuild
3) I expand hal.dll from the CD
4) ran fixboot
5) Finally did a repair install and the system booted up fine, everything looked good.  Went to Microsoft Update and downloaded the 79 fixes since the SP3 cd was issued.  Rebooted and got the hal.dll message again.
Did a repair install again.  Installed all the updated except the most recent ones from the last 2 months.  Seemed to be working.  Installed a few more updates, then it happened again.
Did another repair install and ran anti-virus (avast) and anti-spyware sweeps (I had just scanned a week before the problem).  Found 4 viruses, one in the Software dist download folders.  Deleted all the Soft Dist Download files.
Everything looked clean.  Then it happened again.  I think my wife may have applied some updates not realizing I was holding off.  The time stamp and size of hal.dll always look fine.  The boot.ini always looks fine.  If I expand hal.dll from the CD and reboot, it gives me another dll that is missing or corrupt.

I am getting tired of the repair install (doesn't seem that fast the 5th time), so any other ideas on where to look would be very appreciated.

Dell Latitude D505 (laptop)
XP Pro SP3 - FAT file system
250GB HD (replaced about a year ago)
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Thank you for your response.
1) your first suggestion appears to be a general cleanup and maintenance tool that I am not familiar with.  This computer is well maintained and I am wary of running tools I have not seen recommended before.  Perhaps if I get more recommendations, I will consider it.
2) I have already expanded the hal.dll from the XP CD, but then the system will boot and have another critical .dll missing.  It takes too long to keep booting to the recovery console and expanding another .dll without knowing where it will end, so I have been running a Repair install.

I also forgot to mention, the last time it was up after a repair install I ran SFC /scannow
I think you have to consider the possibility of disk corruption or a failing hard drive. Backup any important data if you can and do a chkdsk. If any problems appear you should check the drive with a utility from the HD manufacturer.


Thanks LMiller7,
I did consider possible drive failure, but I was sidetracked from that because the repair install seemed to work, then the problem came up later after installing updates.  I have run ChkDsk in the recovery console and it did seem to find some problems and correct them - nothing serious.  I will download the drive manufacturer's diagnostic tool and see what it reports.
   If windows is crshing again and again the problem could be a harddrive failure. Shutdown the computer and Hold down the Fn key on the keyboard and press the power button to start a diagnostic routine on the Dell. If the Hdd fails , the only solution would be to replace the same.

To the run the extended diagnostics on the computer go to the following link



UPDATE: Ran Drive Diagnostics
I downloaded Western Digital drive diagnostics for my drive and tested it.  The Quick Check PASSED and I am now doing the Extended test.  It is halfway through with an hour to go and has not given any errors yet (but may not show them until the end...)

Thats great, if the quick test have passed then the harddrive is fine.Also run the test on the RAM. If the same also passes , then you might need to check and update the drivers on the computer. Since the problem occurred after installing Sp3. The HAL files gives the information about what all hardware drivers have to be installed to windows. I guess one of the SP3 fixes is creating a conflict with a hardware driver.



UPDATE: RAM and Drive Diagnostics - PASSED
The drive passed the quick and the extended tests in the WD diag program.
Info: I am using an XP disk that is at the SP3 level, so after a repair install I DO NOT need to apply SP3.  My problem is coming after I apply the many updates since this CD release.
After the diag I converted my drive to NTFS last night using the Windows convert.exe.  I did this to see if any errors came up and I don't know why I was still using FAT32 except maybe this computer came FAT32 and I never got around to converting.  No errors.
Last night, after the NTFS conversion, Windows applied some automatic updates (I forgot that it was reset to automatic after the repair install).  But I had no problems this morning rebooting.
I installed IE8 so that I could access the windows update web site.  Rebooted after IE8 and everything looks good.
Went to Windows Update site it says I need the following High Priority Updates:
Security Update for Windows XP (KB981332)
Update for Windows XP (KB976662)
Update for Windows XP (KB970430)
Update for Windows XP (KB971737)
Security Update for Jscript 5.8 for Windows XP (KB971961)

My fear is that one of these is what caused this whole mess in the first place.
I am going to see if the system stays stable today WITHOUT these updates, then maybe tomorrow I 'll apply them one at a time...

    That would be the best option to do hit and trial . Also check in device manage,whether you need any specific driver. Sometimes the cause could be an updated video driver that is part of one those fixes.



DRIVE DEAD - at least fo booting
The drive failed to boot again.  Before I even applied any updates.  I pulled the drive and set it up as an external USB drive on a desktop system.  I was able to xcopy everything to the Desktop computer.  Then I did a full format of the laptop drive.  Then I put it back into the laptop and the BIOS said there was no hard drive.

So, I guess I am lucky, the boot portions of the drive are shot, but I was still able to copy all of my data off.  A new drive is on the was.

Interesting it passed all the diagnostics...  Oh well.