Still don't know how it happened, but the system lost the /etc/passwd file.
I had to crack the system with a master load DAT tape cartridge because it wouldn't boot into any of the run levels. Everything was there except the /etc/passwd, so once I got it restored from the tape, it was golden, but that system required a 35 hour rebuild if I hadn't been able to recover.
Sad thing is, they shipped the Marines out without an admin. It wasn't even "my" system (Navy geek, not a Marine), so they would have had to ship us a contractor while we had operations on the beach.
OUCH .. other than tossing a list of maybes and a package of who knows in the air, no clue what could have happened to a single file.. will still take that over the nightmare insanity array that can spawn from the microscoff dungeon...
Nope, reinstalling everything not made any difference. Giving up for the night, any suggestions welcome :/
Speaking of the microscoff dungeon...
Is hard to know without actually having hands on that machine.. Its possible you may be having a hardware conflict of some kind, and or even issue with some other 3rd party software running in the background.
As much as I like to bash MS for their abomination, you may be having some issue unique to your machine or configuration.. tech support through a straw is difficult at best with standardised equipment and installs.. Once a machine gets personalised with wizbang goodies and whirlagigs like downloadable ram or even the virus you got from grandma's chain letter she made you play with to keep your soul from going to hell ... It sounds to me like you have some other system issue going on here ..
I personally would start with hardware .. I would shut down your box .. open it up and make sure all your fans can move freely ... get a lawn leaf blower (is actually what I use) or a shop vac on blow (careful for debres in the hose) and blow out the box (outside your house).. remove all the cards including ram ... then reinstall them (this guarantees a fresh new connection is made in all the sockets).
With freshly seated cards and knowing you dont have some thermal issue due to faulty fans ... reboot the box and try the game again.. keep your self grounded (or frequently touch grounded objects) while inside the box to not have static discharges killing your hardware, and handle all cards on by holding their edges..