Well, I've shipped my computer off, having copied everything that I thought I might possibly need from it. (See this post and the ensuing conversation for details.) I even found the PST file from Outlook, which was in what looked like a corrupted directory with the name slightly off (which would explain why the program couldn't find any settings when I opened it). For some reason I couldn't see this directory when running Windows on the drive, but I can see it when I'm looking at the drive as an external additional drive on a different computer.
So now I just have to wait for them to sift through every part of it and find all the problems. What I receive back may well be in as good condition as the original computer was. I'll still have to reinstall everything, and that will take awhile, but I managed to find a hard drive enclosure at the local Circuit City, which I didn't know existed until today when the guy at the Best Buy at the mall sent me downstairs to "the competition" because he didn't have any in stock. I was surprised to discover what the competition was, because we've never had a Circuit City before. We did have a CompUSA, but they've all cleared out. When I saw that, I was hoping BestBuy had it, and when the guy said he didn't have it he must have seen something in my face. I doubt he regularly sends people down to Circuit City.
I had an interesting experience at Circuit City, and it raises an interesting ethical question. When I looked at the hard drive enclosures on the shelf, I saw two different ones. It turned out the more expensive one ($40) was for desktop computer hard drives, and the less expensive one ($20) was for notebook hard drives. At least that's what the price markings underneath them said. Since I needed the latter, I checked with a sales guy to make sure it was what I needed, and he said that was what would enable me to connect my hard drive to another computer as an external drive. So I waited in the fairly long line (the only one they had open) and then discovered that the enclosure actually cost something like $35. I didn't want to wait in line again, so I paid it and then went back to check. It turns out the one they had a price tag up for was a different brand. They're charging $15 more for this apparently better brand for the same product, and meanwhile they don't have the cheaper ones in stock and don't have this one labeled. That strikes me as deceptive marketing, whether it's deliberate or not.
I wouldn't normally be the sort of person to buy something like this, use it for what I need it for, and then return it. But given that I thought I was going to be paying a good deal less for this thing (and it was pretty much the store's fault that I had just about paid for it when I realized that), I think I may just return it when I'm done. Sam's going to use it to get some stuff off an older hard drive from her old computer that won't boot up (I already took what I wanted off it once the other computer got picked up by DSL), and I might wait until I get my computer back to transfer things back to it from Sam's new computer (where I put everything in the meantime). But I have no qualms about using their 30-day return policy basically to rent this thing for free, if they're going to do when in effect advertises it as if it's 4/7 of its real price, for people to discover only after they've waited in a long line. Technically speaking, it's not what I thought it was. It's a much more expensive product that does exactly the same thing. They frame their 30-day return policy in terms of whether you're completely satisfied with the product. I'm not completely satisfied with it, even if I'm very satisfied with what it does.