Yoo Yoo Yo Yo Y infinity Y infinity boot error

Hi everyone. Not to sound cliché, but long time reader, first time poster.

This morning I turned on my wife's WinXP VAIO rig and, out of the blue, during boot the prompt displayed a strange symbol: Y 'infinity symbol" Y "infinity symbol", or Yoo Yoo (the symbol has also been described as looking like an American two-prong electrical outlet). The prompt holds here and will not continue to Windows start up screen.

I can access the VAIO's BIOS. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Restarted. Still "Yoo Yoo". Unhooked the HDD, and slaved to my other XP Pentium D rig. Ran a virus scan. HDD clean. Was able to access all the files on the HDD and even copy over a few newer docs to my Pentium D rig's drive (since my last backup was last week). The drive seems fine.

I reattached the VAIO HDD to the VAIO rig and booted to my XP disc in order to run the recovery console. Replaced the mbr and the bootdisk. Restarted. Still "Yoo Yoo".

The day before this error, I had not installed anything new nor adjusted any settings. Final Shutdown for the night was normal. This has never happened before to any of my rigs.

This is the Misses' computer and she's rather attached to it. If worse comes to worse, I will reformat, but as I've mentioned, the drive has worked perfectly until last night. If anything, I am more interested in the cause, so that it doesn't happen again.

I've already tried searching these forums for an answer to this issue, but haven't discovered a related thread. If this has indeed been answered, apologies for troubling everyone. I've also thoroughly googled the issue all day long and found that many other people have suffered from this same issue, and yet most seem baffled by the origin or a clear answer.

Note: one year ago I switched from a 40gig drive to a 160gig. Direct clone using Norton Ghost. The VAIO's BIOS however does not support drives larger than 130gig. I've never been able to find a newer BIOS version to flash and fix this. There was one suggestion on a forum that partitioning the 160gig drive below the 130gig legacy ceiling could maybe fix the Yoo Yoo freeze up. The reason I have not tried this suggestion is that it seems highly unlikely to me that if this were truly the cause/fix of the issue I wouldn't have been able to run the drive for so long without a hitch. However, I am ready to try anything at this point. I'm stuck. Soooo, whadya think? I'm at the mercy of the experience and know-how of Tom's forums.

Sony Vaio PCV-RX450
Windows XP Prof
AMD Athlon 1 ghz
512mb RAM (2x 256 PC133 SDRAM)
2 x 160 gig WD Caviar SE EIDE (single boot master/slave)
(I believe it's an) Asus A7S-LE MOBO (but having trouble finding anything physically on the board)
Award BIOS REV 1002LE 4/16/2001

Happy to provide any additional information.
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  1. Update: Still have not determined the root of the problem, nor a solution. Put the HDD in another rig and ran thru NIS2009 and Adaware. no viruses/worms/spyware to report.

    I considered just formatting the drive and starting over... and then I started thinking that if I can successfully access the drive data via another rig, and there appears to be no virus/worm/spyware, then wouldn't it be logical to assume it's a registery or BIOS issue? As in Win registery at boot not being read correctly, or an error keeping my BIOS from loading WinXP. Yet, I can pull up my BIOS settings, and all the settings seems normal.

    Hypothesizing that it is the registery, and I format and reload my last backup, what's to say the issue won't suddenly activate once again? Still must deduce the root.

    Would this question perhaps be more appropriate in a different forum section like "Motherboards and Memory", since we're talking bootup, registery, and BIOS?

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