Phil, also known as PryMal, who is a Tech Talk Radio listener, has sent me the following information:
I’ve tripped over this recently and in case you’d not found a fix yet, it appears as though it was a botched update from MS that pushed 64bit code for IE which starts background at boot, into 32bit operating system environments including XP: Well done Microsoft!
Which at least explains why the ctrl-alt-del works to get explore.exe running and the version of IE8 on the MS site is the NON 64bit coded 32 bit version.
Figured you might like the whole story on that if you’d not yet found it.
So that seems to explain the nature of the problem further and the method below still seems to be the way to deal with the issue.
I haven’t seen any more examples of this since the cluster I had around the time of the previous post, so I think this puts an end to this issue. Thanks to Phil for providing the detail of where Microsoft went wrong.