Failure to load applications

I have Windows xp which frequently hangs. Now it has started to fail to load programs - eg iTunes will not load at all any more; Adobe Acrobat failed to load this morning, until I restarted the laptop. They appear as processes, but get no CPU allocation, and do not appear as running applications. Any ideas?
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  1. The best idea yet is to back up all your personal files on to a CD, DVD, or an online backup service, such as MOZY. Do this first.

    It's a good idea to go through the installed applications and delete as many un used programs as possible.
    click my computer, click control panel, click add remove programs, look at the list.
    What programs are on the list?

    It's a good idea to update your anti virus and scan the entire system for malware.

    It's a good idea to do a repair install of windows XP. Do you have an XP disk?
    See Tom's XP forum, fifth post from the top, for the directions. After a repair install, the system usually goes back to normal.

    System hang frequently results from not having enough RAM memory installed, click my computer, click control panel, click system, how much memory does it show as installed?
    You should have 1 GB or more to run XP.
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