First Time Building PC - Trouble Booting Windows Disk

Hello Everyone, first time poster.

I just built my first rig, looks like this:

MSI K9N Platinum SLI Motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200
EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS
4 GB PC6400 DDR2 800mhz RAM

Trying to install 64-bit Windows Vista and running into a problem. Was on the phone with MS support for 1.5hrs tonight and the end result is that they think I have hardware configuration issues. Maybe someone here can help me out?

Everything appears to be working as it should. But when I try to boot from the Windows disk, after the initial "loading files" screen completes, it gets stuck on a screen that looks like a Windows startup screen (says "Microsoft Corporation" and has a progress bar). It is supposed to transition to the next step in the installation process.

I've removed all but 1gb of RAM to see if there was an issue there. I've reset the BIOS options to default. I know that there's updated BIOS & drivers for both the motherboard and the nForce chipset, but I am pretty dumb when it comes to this sort of stuff and am in over my head in trying to figure out what the cause of the problem could be (let alone how to fix it).

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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  1. The place where it freezes, I think, is when it is trying to load a bunch of files into RAM. It's actually trying to establish a virtual disk in RAM and store files there for use during the rest of the install. Once it finishes that, it will proceed to examining your actual hard disk and preparing it for installing files there. Although you don't mention it, I am assuming you have a hard disk. I'd look at two things first.

    In the BIOS, check how the hard disk is set up. For example, on some mobo's the SATA controllers actually are turned off by default, so if your HDD is SATA you might need to enable the SATA controller. Then check how it is set. I expect you do NOT want it to use a RAID system. But you still may have to make a choice. For example, you may have to choose between PATA emulation, AHCI, or maybe some others. A few of these (like AHCI or plain SATA) actually need drivers loaded. Usually PATA emulation does not - it simply fools the rest of the system into thinking it is dealing with a PATA drive that it understands already. But if you need to load drivers, they must be on a floppy disk - Windows installer only knows how to use a very few peripheral devices. And there's a particular place and procedure very early in the installation process for this. There's a message that asks about loading external drivers, and you have to press a key (I think F6) to do that; if you don't within a timeout period it assumes you want not to do this and proceeds by default.

    If the HDD access seemks set up OK, you should check you RAM. If possible, check in BIOS what it says it is using for voltage and timing on the RAM, and compare to maker's specs. Usually this is all done right automatically by the BIOS, but check anyway. For the next step you need a floppy drive and disk, and access to another copmputer. Search the web for Memtest86+. Download it as a file, and run that file. It will create a floppy disk for you that has a small OS on it plus the Memtest86+ software. You boot from this floppy on your new system and run the tests. Run all of them many times - let it run for many hours. It can tell you if there is a RAM problem.
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