Got home last night, and my wife's PC greeted me with something that approximately equals: "Cannot read drive c:\, please insert a bootable drive."

Okay, that computer is seven years old, and I think its time to take it out in the pasture and shoot it. But over the past couple of years, I've max'ed it out and upgraded the hardware (64 bit Soundblaster card, ATI Radeon video card, Firewire card, etc.) And since Christmas, I've replaced the old CD R/W drive and added a DVD-ROM drive.

My questions:

(1) Is the hard drive really shot? OR did the d@m# thing just quit talking to the rest of the computer? Its a fairly new Maxtor 20 GByte drive, so I hope the data on it can be salvaged and that I can daisy-chain that drive to a drive on a new computer. But I'm afraid to try to re-partition it because I'm afraid of losing some of the data that's on it.

(2) If I buy a replacement computer, I think the standard video and sound cards that are included will not be as good as the ones sitting in my (currently) dead computer. I know you gamers will tell me that my video card isn't the latest and greatest anymore, but what I need to know if whether its better than the stardard video card in today's new computers.

If my stuff is better, does anybody know where I can buy a new computer that doesn't have built-in CD R/W and DVD drives, a built-in sound card, a built-in video card, etc.? I don't mind upgrading the thing myself but I don't want to pay for and immediately replace those components and I really don't want to build the computer from scratch (I'm a finance geek, not a computer geek )

Any input is appreciated. Jay