When you said you were ''judiciously'' removing services, I hope you meant you were disabling them, not actually removing their files.
I don't know the basis of your decisions. Running services.msc /s will give you some information on the purpose of each service. However, the two sites below generally provide more info., and even make some recommendations.
As for your Adobe Reader problem, I don't have a definite answer. Is it possible you accidentally deleted some critical file? As you used System restore to go back to a time prior to removing services, and it didn't work, the problem is deeper. You might try system file checker, scannow in case a protected system file has a problem, but I would think that System Restore would have taken care of that.
You have reinstalled Adobe Reader, but from a fresh copy? I would download a new copy and reinstall from that.
If all else fails, an OS repair may be in order. I hope you have, or can get, an XP CD, which would make it easier. You didn't say what kind of laptop you have, but the restore function of some makes destroys all files on your drive before reinstalling XP, so back up everything important first.
Hope this helps
XP Home SP2 40GHDD 512RAM
I spent most of today tweaking my new laptop to get it running well, and I did except somewhere along the line I cannot open Adobe Reader or any pdf files. I've uninstalled and reinstalled it twice. I've run every test I know: I've scanned for malware, cleaned the registry, moved every trace of Adobe (using jv16pt). When I first reinstall and try to launch it I get a splash sreen which then disappears and...nothing. No error notice; nothing. After that, if I double click on the icon or any pdf file, I get the hourglass for a few moments and then nothing at all.
I've searched Adobe's forums for this; I've googled every key word I can think of; I've scoured these forums. I've deleted every temp. file on the computer.
What I was doing after I was last able to read a pdf was 'judiciously' removing a few services I thought I didn't need (and have now restored)and uninstalling one AV and installing another. I was also missing some icons in my system tray which I found I could restore by hiding UPnP icons in Network Places (odd that!). I mention these in case something here rings a bell with someone.
I tried System Restore too, and it made no difference, even though the restore point I returned to was well before the problem started. I was unable to undo the changes, by the way, and am back to yesterday afternoons configuration after all today's efforts.
I can usually solve most problems with a bit of help, but this one has me completely flummoxed, and I can get no enlightenment so far online. Can anyone help?