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death of a laptop

my laptop fell into a slow and lingering decline last week.
on Monday night, it took 2 hours to boot, and check my email.
results varied for the rest of the week, but by the time my sister and geek-in-law arrived on Thursday, I had begun to accept the inevitable and try to figure out how to rescue any files I ever wanted to see again before the computer shipped off for warranted service.
Smabbage arrived with his 1gb thumb drive, so we managed to offload all my pictures (thousands, yea verily thousands of them) and the most critical document files for transfer to CD, done at the office.
One of the issues with the laptop was that the CD burner quit working in 2002.
this has hampered my ability to back those pictures up, but never fear, we have managed now. most pictures I take are low res, so quite a few fit on a CD.
Geek-in-law agreed with me that the issues appeared to be hard-ware related, which meant nothing to the repair geek at BestBuy. I was prepared for the loss of software, since it's been four years since I loaded up Windows Office and Corel Office, and my original program disks are safely tucked away in the Great Pile of Storage, where strong men fear to tread (mostly cause they'll get stuck between rows of boxes and unneeded-but-too-good-to-throw-away furniture.)
so in two weeks (contractor-time, I'm sure) we'll start all over, as the only option in the land-o-repair is to wipe the files, re-install the OS, and then decide if the problem really could be a case of entropy meet computer parts.
all internet access will be from work for the foreseeable future.