Can't startup Windows - after trying with 2 USB drives plugged in


I was given an old Dell laptop (with no software/recovery discs) and it worked fine until one time I tried to start it up with a USB flash drive and a USB external hard drive both plugged in.. It would not get to the Windows loading screen.. It gets past the BIOS loading, then goes to a black screen with an underscore cursor blinking at the top left.. It hangs here and never gets any further (even when I left it on for more than 24 hours). And yes I've tried starting it both with and without the USB drives plugged in.

I'm not sure of the specs, but it has Windows XP Home and it's a pretty good laptop from the pre-Windows Vista/7 days. It has something like a 160Gb HD, 512Mb of RAM (maybe 1GBb), and an above-average Pentium CPU (probably Pentium 4, maybe D or M).

I can try to see what specs I can get later, but I think what's more important in figuring this out is the fact that I never had a problem until I tried to start it up with 2 USB drives plugged in. Someone suggested I might've overloaded it by doing that.

Also, I can probably find a Windows XP disc or recovery disc to borrow if I'll need it, but this brings up 2 more small questions:
Can I use a Windows XP Pro disc to recover this Windows XP Home system?
If I re-install Windows with someone else's disc, will this make me unable to use Windows since they've already used that product key to register it?

Any help with this is greatly appreciated!
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More about startup windows drives plugged
  1. Can you get into safe mode & choose "Safe Mode with Networking" ?

    If so, download Speccy and get your full system specs.

    Get into device manager > expand Universal Serial Bus.
    Expand then right click and scan for hardware changes for each entry.

    Run services.msc from start > Run
    Make sure Removable Storage is not disabled.
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