I want to thank all of you for your suggestions. I am giving up on the HP Pavillion and moving on to my second, but a newer laptop. This one is an HP EliteBook 693p. I have successfully started a "live session" from the thumb drive. After carefully studying the installation guide I plan to install Linux Mint and delete Windows XP. I would try installing Linux alongside Windows but the Windows system crashes within less than a minute of loading. I can't see much point in keeping it.
For now, I will be exploring Linux Mint in a live session until I fully understand the installation procedure. I don't know if this computer has an NVIDIA graphics card because Windows won't stay open long enough for me to examine the system hardware. If that causes a problem, I won't know how to proceed.
Again, thank you for all your suggestions. I have never participated in a forum before and I hope I am using proper etiquette.