Well, the hard drive's ability to find C:\ is totally gone. The FAT's (file allocation table) is lost somewhere in the deep dark sectors. It's not registering at boot up, in other words. Tried several emergency boot up disks, but none helped. So ... time for a new hard drive.
This old hard drive in the Dell is at least seven years old and from my Penn Foster PC repair and maintenance classes, hard drives have a way of crashing and burning once they hit six years old. Glad I know how to replace them. Will set me back a couple of hundred to three hundred dollars because I'm upgrading to Windows 7 while I'm at it. Will take a little cash out of each paycheck for a few months and set it aside for a summer project.
Keeping both crashed hard drives and will experiment with data retrieval software someday. If you work on computers, it's good to know how to retrieve data from a blown hard drive. Might look good on a resume one day when I get done with caring for Mom and get back out into the real working world again. Actually, for a while, thinking of working two jobs to build up my savings again. I can spend money, but I can save it, too.
While I have the Dell in tear down, I can replace the broken CD ROM with a DVD burner that the Camo computer couldn't use because of it's mobo's age.