I have my laptop back! My wallet is in serious pain, but I have my laptop back! Farging hard drive crashes... but they are pretty much a guarantee to happen at some point during a computer's lifetime.
The only drawback is that now I am installing a very long laundry list of software that Geek Squad couldn't do for me. This includes things like Firefox, Google Chrome, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Ad-Aware, for starters. I'd list the rest, but that's probably only of interest to other nerds, so if you're curious, just ask. (My email addy is near the top of the orange sidebar.)
I do have to say, though, THANK GOODNESS for the Firefox add-on Xmarks. (Formerly known as Foxmarks.) It took me under a minute to restore my bookmarks to what they were pre-crash, because I have this add-on that saves my bookmarks on Xmarks' site. I have the add-on installed on this laptop and two netbooks, and EVERY time I update my bookmarks, Xmarks saves it. Then when I use Firefox on one of my other machines, it immediately synchronizes the bookmarks so they're always current on that machine.
In any event, I'm still installing software on my machine. It's all freebie stuff, but it's stuff I use regularly so I need to get it back. While I wait for it to download, I have the Franklin Institute webcam feed for their Red-Tailed Hawks Nest running in a browser window. Most of the people whom I know read this blog are as interested in this sort of thing as I am, so let's see if blogger behaves when I try to embed the link in this post.