when i try to open up my computer or windows explorer
and go to the screen that shows all the hard drives and taht
all that happens is i see the torch thing going from side to side and thats all
doesnt show up
and it pretty much locks up
Try disabling all of the programs that are running in the background (using Start -> Run -> msconfig) and restart your computer. Then (with no programs running in the background) try opening it again. If that works, enable the programs one by one and see which one causes the trouble. If you found it, post again here.
This is the most time consuming, so do this when you're a couple of hours (just to be sure) off.
I would say that this is an issue peculiar to Win XP.
Having regularly checked every driver in the system , I have come across this as an intermittent problem.
It is possibly down to Antivirus software.
No regularly used software , other than that, has been a common denominator on my system.
I have used "free" Antivirus progs of various makes and would say that some driver updates / patches could be suspect .