Long story short, the hard drive of my Dell Dimension 3000 failed. The PC started acting up last Thursday and wouldn't boot most of the time. Windows would occasionally load but invariably display the Blue Screen of Death.
Dad took the computer to my uncle Dong (who is good with these things) and was told that the hard drive had died. The good news is that I was able to recover most of my files. While some of them were corrupted, the critical ones were intact. Phew!
Of course, every cloud has a silver lining: I got a shiny new HDD with 466 GB of free space. The downside is that I had to install all those programs and Windows updates again, but that's ultimately better than losing years of data. I'm also extremely lucky that this didn't happen in the middle of an important project. Lesson learned: I should probably start doing regular backups soon.
I did have to miss the dance at Stern last Friday as a result, although that's a relatively minor inconvenience. Oh well, one cannot expect everything to be perfect.