It sounds like a hardware issue ...
First, take the cover off the tower and blow out all the dust and junk from inside. Make sure all fans are running and clean. Also check to see if any of the capicitors are bulging or leaking on the motherboard. If they are, then the motherboard is toast and needs to be replaced.
Once that's done, leaving the cover off the tower, aim a housefan at the inards and run the machine with the fan cooling things off.
Have you scanned the machine with antivirus AND antispyware tools? If so, which ones?
Have you tried running "Error Checking/Chkdsk"? If not, restart into Safe Mode, if possible, then follow the instructions in the link below:
How To Run 'Error Checking/Chkdsk' On Win2000/XP
If you can restart into Safe Mode, please try the steps in the links below to eliminate unnecessary start up programs which cause conflicts.
For Windows 2000/XP, ignore the first couple of sentences about checking "resources" and the "Performance tab" in the link below but follow the rest of the procedures including the "Services" links at the bottom.
How To Shut Down Unnecessary Start Up Programs
Because the links for the "Services" are no longer functioning in the link above, use this one:
Services Guide For Windows XP
If that doesn't help, then a lot of troubleshooting is in order..The power supply may need replacement, motherboard, processor, etc. If you don't have the tools to this type of troubleshooting, you may want to take it to a reputable repair person..Or if the only reason you want the computer running is to retrieve files because you didn't make backups, then you might be able to use another computer to install your current hard drive as a "slave" or such. A USB hard drive enclosure would also allow you to remove you current drive, place it in an enclosure and read the data on another comp.
Hope this helps and let us know how it goes.
dell inspiron 5100, windows xp. bought new in june 2003.
my computer started having issues a couple of weeks ago. since then it has turned on a total of 2 times. (i have gotten safe mode to work a lot of the time, but can never seem to fix the problem) even before that it wouldnt restart. i would have to let it "cool down" or something before it would restart properly.
i hadnt installed any new programs or anything that i can think of.
i've been doing everything i can to try to figure out the problem and fix it. i tried many restore points, defraged, and even re-installed windows. nothing has worked so far.
today i was in safe mode and when i went to the control panel: system preferences: hardware i got a message that said something about an exception in "shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL"c:\WINDOWS\System32\sysdm.cpl",System"
i dont know if that has to do with any of the other problems i am having or what.
also, even before this happened, whenever the monitor would turn off (such as in standby or hibernate modes) it would never come back on, and i couldnt do anything except turn off my computer by holding the power button and restarting it twice. (the first time the monitor still wouldnt be on so i had to hold down the power button again to restart it)
any help with any of this??
i am at my wits end over this!