After my third hour-long discussion with the Dell tech support people in India, I finally have a diagnosis for computer's problem.
The hard drive is terminally ill. It must be replaced, and a new one is on the way to me in the mail. Thankfully, my computer is still under warranty, so the drive is at no charge to me.
It'll still be a pain in the ass to get all my old data off the sick drive and onto the new one. I guess I have my work cut out for me over the next few days.
I asked the tech support guy if I could upgrade the hard drive he's sending me to one with more capacity--and of course, I'd pay the difference for the better drive. Here's how the conversation went. Be sure to add your own Indian accent:
India: You will have to call customer care after your new drive arrives, sir.
Me: Um, wouldn't it be easier if I just ordered the upgrade now? Then Dell wouldn't have to send me one drive, and me just send it back.
India: You will have to call cusomter care AFTER your new drive arrives, sir. I will give you a tracking number. Hold please.
HOLD MUSIC PLAYS
India: Thank you for holding, sir. Here is your tracking number: 123456789xxxyz.
Me: Okay. Is that a Dell number I track on the Dell site? Or a FedEx number?
India: It's your tracking number, sir.
Me: For what system?
India: For the drive we are sending.
I entered the tracking number on Dell's Web site, but it wasn't recognized. I really have no idea what the tracking number he gave me is for.
And he's probably thinking, "What an idiot customer. He can't use a tracking number."