Could be many things, we should start with this...
"Try Disk Utility
1. Insert the Mac OS X Install disc, then restart the computer while holding the C key.
2. When your computer finishes starting up from the disc, choose Disk Utility from the Installer menu at top of the screen. (In Mac OS X 10.4 or later, you must select your language first.)
*Important: Do not click Continue in the first screen of the Installer. If you do, you must restart from the disc again to access Disk Utility.*
3. Click the First Aid tab.
4. Select your Mac OS X volume.
5. Click Repair Disk, (not Repair Permissions). Disk Utility checks and repairs the disk."
Then try a Safe Boot, (holding Shift key down at bootup), run Disk Utility in Applications>Utilities, then highlight your drive, click on Repair Permissions, reboot when it completes.
(Safe boot may stay on the gray radian for a long time, let it go, it's trying to repair the Hard Drive.)
If perchance you can't find your install Disc, at least try it from the Safe Boot part onward.
i dont have any disks for it so i tried to boot it into safe mode but it just goes dtraight back to the welcome screen where i have to choose a language (and of course there isnt a language to choose)
if i buy myself a copy of os x tiger will i be able to just reinstall the software and basically wipe the machine?
Possibly, make sure it's the Retail version though.
See Tom's, (Texas Mac Man), great info on where/how to find/get Tiger...
Or Ali Brown's great info on where/how to find/get Tiger...
Would be cheaper to get a 10.6 Install Disc...
Snow Leopard/10.6.x Requirements...
* Mac computer with an Intel processor
* 1GB of memory (I say 4GB at least, more if you can afford it)
* 5GB of available disk space (I say 30GB at least)
* DVD drive for installation
* Some features require a compatible Internet service provider; fees may apply.
* Some features require Apple’s MobileMe service; fees and terms apply.
Which apps work with Mac OS X 10.6?...
Buy Snow Leopard > http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC573/mac-os-x-106-snow-leopard
Call Apple Sales...in the US: 1-800-MY-APPLE. Or Support... 1-800-275-2273