My problems began when my HDD failed to come out of sleep mode--and was no longer recognized as existing in the BIOS.
After hunting online, I discovered that the problem was a known firmware defect with my HDD and there was a solution for it.
I went through the necessary steps and fixed the firmware problem.
Here's where things went further downhill....
I thought that I had better backup the data immediately before anything else could go wrong.
I put the HDD into another same make and model computer, which has a disk cloning program installed (Acronis True Image Home 2011) and it booted up--but to the drive that had been unrecognized before, instead of the computer's own HDD.
Upon booting the message appeared that windows had not been shut down properly earlier, since it hadn't.
I left the room for a few minutes and returned to find it running checkdisk.
I let it finish running and next it claimed to need to run Startup repair, so I allowed it to do that.
Apparently, my choices were unwise and I rue the fact that I didn't just put the HDD back in it's on computer first.
The result of this is that the computer with the HDD cloning program's HDD wants to continually reboot and the HDD that recovered from the firmware problem will only boot into safe mode.
I want to clone the Safe Mode only disk, so that the data on it doesn't get destroyed, while I try to learn how to diagnose and repair whatever is wrong.
The other HDD isn't a priority, at the moment, because I had already cloned the entire HDD to another drive, before the mishap.
I thought that the problem had been that both HDDs were the same model and capacity and that I would have a better result if I tried to clone the Safe Mode only HDD (SMO HDD to save me some typing) from another same make/model computer that has a different, larger capacity HDD--so as not to "confuse" the computer.
I put the SMO HDD in the other computer, booted into the BIOS to ensure that the correct HDD was seen as the one to boot from and it was.
I exited and let the computer boot into Windows Vista Home Premium SP2--but this computer also booted from the wrong HDD.
The only computer that I have that lacks Acronis True image Home 2011 is the SMO HDD, and I don't think I can install Acronis on it in safe mode.
Now I'm afraid to try to run Acronis from the larger HDD--and I'm not even sure how I would do so, as the computer only wants to boot to the SMO HDD, despite the BIOS claiming that the first boot option is the larger HDD. None of the BIOS boot options listed the SMO HDD.
My fear is that I will accidentally wipeout the SMO HDD's data--or the SMO HDD will die before I can make a clone of the disk or backup the files.
It's my son's computer--and the only one whose data was not already backed up.
Thanks for reading all this.
If anyone has the knowledge and is willing to guide me, I will be ecstatic