They outdid themselves
A couple weeks ago, I got an email from my parents. Their desktop PC had broken: When they tried to boot it, it gave them an error about Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \system32\hal.dll
Not an unheard of problem. I made a couple of suggestions, then sent a link to e that gave the exhaustive list of ways to fix the problem.
Item 4 on that site, booting off the install disk and using the repair console to re-create the boot.ini file, was the one that fixed it: Without the boot.ini, Windows can't find the hal.dll and so the error appears.
So they re-created boot.ini and up came Windows, good as new. All well.
Or so it seemed, until the NEXT time they rebooted. Same error. Same fix.