Out of morbid curiosity I took my old laptop to the shop yesterday to see if they could tell me what went wrong. They just called me and confirmed my suspiciouns: hard drive failure. I'm not sure what caused the drive failure, something physical or maybe some malicious malware, but it would cost about $300 to repair. So, that's not happening. Still, it's good to know . . . something? I'm going to ask some questions when I go pick up the shell for recycling.