So? mbwpgh, is your problem yet live?
I saw 1.7.7 best version, it made some problems with apache starting in the beginning, but later on worked fine
did you allow services through windows firewall? even it is off, sometimes acting stupid and you need to add a rule
also find something else preventing the service from starting? antivirus or internet security software?
I think if you install it as a service it will be better for monitoring even? run > services.msc and check Apache service, right click > start, see the message, follow it...
did you install in in c:\xampp (1.7.7) version?
did you install those C++ libraries ? they are required for version 1.7.7 to work, as it is compiled using C9
I faced that and when installed those C libraries it works! just search the forums here, it is taboo