I have Linux on the machine, and I'm using it now. It's been probably 3 years since I last booted linux on this machine, and so I've long forgotten my password. Hurray for single-user mode, though. And, hurray for me using a data drive separate from the system disk for windows -- all my files appear intact, from what Linux can see. So, fingers crossed.
I guess it's time for a new computer. I bought "gauss" about a week before I moved to California, which is going on 9 years now. 3GB RAM and a 2.2 GHz processor still seems reasonable now, although it's only(!) one core, and it of course it was The Bomb when I bought it back then. But I'm sort of loving my Thinkpad X201, my work laptop -- maybe I'll replace my home machine with a laptop + docking station? Dunno.