Well, it was nice to hear from Julia - and Hi to all you Dacombes out there!.
[GEEK WARNING - skip this if 'how computers work' is boring to you] I did a bit of hunting on The Web, and found a bunch of people discussing EXACTLY the same symptoms as I had on my PC.
Everyone seems baffled. Is the common factor the Maxtor drive failure? or using Kazaa (OK, I admit that might be stupid) - a rather promiscuous way of mingling with other people's computers...and I didn't stop and scan each file that got downloaded.
Why did my RAM go as well? Is the supposed virus really a hoax, or is there something in the fact that my Norton was waving at me in the unstable period before the crash? [One of those viruses/trojans which get behind the security system and disable it].
I do keep adding software to mess with, and I did recently pull down a beta version of a power tool program, but it was from the [until now] very reliable guy whose Registry Cleaner I have great faith in. So, hmmmmm.
Shall I just go out and buy a new hard drive, and hope all the rest is fine (motherboard, CPU etc). Is this hard drive now just another doorstop?