My son returned a 2006 Dell that ran XP (changed that) but the HDD was eventually found to be failing. The SYMPTOM was as you noted.
So I popped in a 35 dollar SSD and took the Windows 7 up to W10 and now it boots and gets a web search in a total of 33 seconds. Not shabby.
Good luck in your testing.
I've been playing Shotonline Golf on my 2 computers for 8 years. Laptop is a Dell Inspiron N5110 running Win 7 Home Premium SP1 64 bit. Desktop is running XP and has always been extremely stable. There was apparently a bug in the recent Codecs Update so we all had to re-install. Both computers will install a few files and then freeze. I use Task Manager to free it and start the installation again. It might do 10 files and then freeze again, I've disabled Avast Antivirus, disabled the firewall. made exceptions for that website, Updated Display Adapter Drivers etc. Nothing helps. Any clue as to what might be going on? Thanks in advance