Ok guys, I'm already outside my comfort zone here. OS updates and hard drive swaps no problem, but it's been years since I tried pulling a computer apart. I stuck to the network side (CCNA CCNP) and even that knowledge is pretty outdated. One thing I do remember about troubleshooting though was no matter how complex the set up, nine times out of ten, the problem was a cable issue. Not that we have cable issues here, but, and correct me if I am wrong, it's most likely to be something simple. Here are my thoughts based upon comments above:
I pulled the old drive, installed a new one, then loaded Windows. Rebooted. Everything works.
Installed the new drivers using the Dell utility. Rebooted. Everything works.
Installed the BIOS update. Attempted to reboot. No luck.
Downgraded the BIOS. Attempted to reboot. No luck.
Reinstalled the original hard drive and OS (untouched). Attempted to reboot. No luck.
Having reinstalled the original hard drive and OS, that should exclude the driver updates as the problem.
Having downgraded the BIOS to the original version (per the date of manufacture, I wish I remembered for sure what it was) that theoretically eliminates the BIOS compatibility as the problem.
As best I can tell the machine is as delivered in term of components. Original video card, memory, etc.
The BIOS was set to Legacy rather than UEFI (and I'm not entirely clear what that means) but I may have done that myself a couple weeks ago when I was trying to get it to boot Linux off a flash drive. In any case, I had to switch it back to UEFI to get it to acknowledge the flash drive when I 'restored' the BIOS. Then I had to switch it back to 'Legacy' in order to get it to recognize the hard drive afterward.
The simple solution or 'cable issue' in this case, assuming the BIOS install didn't fail twice, is that I have a setting issue.
Now my experience with BIOS settings was mostly gleaned in the 1990's; boot order, date, time. This computer doesn't even appear to access all the settings from the same place. I've found two different screens. One I get to with F2 the other with F12, I think . . . Nothing looks familiar.
Anyway, all of this to say that I am leaning toward the idea of restoring the BIOS defaults and seeing if that doesn't solve the problem. What are the chances that the default setting were modified at the factory? If the machine is as I believe 'stock', then should the default settings be functional settings so that I can at least boot the machine and launch Dell's web-based tech scan?
If the default settings were potentially changed at the factory, can anyone point to the appropriate resources to work that out? Hitting that 'restore default settings' button scares me as much as hitting the 'update BIOS' button should have. The only reason I tried it in the first place was because of the recent stories about the flaw in the Intel chips.