My fix ended up as follows: I pulled the hard disk out of my Inspiron and our IT fellow at work had an adapter that you can plug the Inspiron hard disk into. The end of the adapter cord is a USB plug. So you plug that USB cord into any other computer and that computer thinks your Inspiron hard drive is just an external storage device. This allowed me to move my data from my Inspiron hard drive to another machine. (As an aside, that adapter that allowed me to do that looked like a cheap part...one small circuit board and one USB with one cable leading out to a USB plug ... probably a $15 item.)
Next, I put the Inspiron hard drive back into my Inspiron (it's an easy process .. just turn your computer over and it's two small screws!).
Now I want to re-load Windows XP Professional on my machine. But I couldn't get the machine to look at the cd driver to boot from the disk. When I would turn on the machine, it went to the blue screen, and hitting F8 / F12 didn't give me any successful alternative ... all roads lead to the blue screen of death.
A friend told me to hit the F2 button and set the boot sequence to the CD drive, which I did.
Now the computer looks to boot up from the CD driver. I then reloaded XP and that wiped all data off my hard drive ... I'm basically starting from scratch. Then I reloaded my Office package, McAfee, etc.
Finally, I move the data that I had stored on a separate computer back onto my machine.
Anyone going through this has my sympathy, and to the extent I can help you, I'm willing.
You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can call me at (206) 792-6857 (pacific time ... so please make allowances for time difference). I'm no tech guru, but perhaps I can save you some grief if you have to recreate what I've just done.
So far, machine is working great! Perhaps even faster than before as anything mischevous would have been wiped off the drive.