RIP dell ...
Thanks for the help.
Suggestions for finding a replacement?
Go to Ebay. I just bought two Dell Latitudes there, for $100 and $200 respectively, solid machines I know already, D630 and E6410. They are Win7 64 bit, which I wanted to add to my collection (normally I use 32-bit). I also bought 10 Dells from dellauction and dell outlet, some as cheap as $200, which are off-lease machines Dell refurbishes and some have 3-year warranties. All were Win7 (well wait, one was Vista Business). Each of these machines had at least 4GB of RAM, most were i5 but I like Core 2 Duo Optiplexes and the D630 is that as well.
In short, you get a lot of machine for little money, and these are workhorses, not the flimsy Dimension (which I also have and frankly one of them has lasted over 10 years with no hardware problems) or Inspiron or Studio. The latter three are consumer grade, nowhere as good.
As for your expiring hard drive, look at Amazon for some kind of external IDE connetor with a USB or SATA adaptor at the other end. They exist, but I forget the models. Then you can hook up your old hard drive externally, and CLONE it with Clonezilla (follow Windows Method B here, http://clonezilla.org/liveusb.php ). Good idea to use Clonezilla on any machine you have, because a clone is a live bootable replica of your hard drive. If you can't clone it, the drive is dead. If you can clone it, then maybe buy an older Dell which has IDE. But frankly if you can clone it, then you can clone it into a new machine, or just have the clone available and 'tap into' it from time to time, FROM your new machine.
Linux helps you do that, but right now maybe you're not in the mood for another new OS to learn.