I ran Spinrite, reinstalled Windows twice, pulled the wireless network card, installed my old Ethernet card twice, installed the drivers maybe 15 times, tried to reinstall the floppy drive (and failed), and went through 7 or 8 CD-Rs, just to be able to move downloaded drivers around. But now it works.
Works as what, you may ask? Well, at the moment, a rather small fileserver, potentially a printer server, possibly a mail server and FTP server (again). Especially the mail server. Maybe a game machine for some of my older games. Anything for which I don't care to leave my much faster, newer laptop tied up running.
For that matter, since it has a working "old school" gameport, I can not only use my old joysticks on it, I just might be able to use the MIDI adapter I picked up at Goodwill a while back. Might just be fast enough for editing podcasts, too.
Need to back up my working podcast files to that machine, too, come to think of it. And if I can get it to work with a decent-sized drive, might make a serviceable backup server, at least for a while. If it turns out I can get an eSATA card to work in the thing, combined with my Thermaltake BlacX, it might also become a "Spinrite server," if you will. Nothing there I needed in a hurry, but if I can use that setup to run Spinrite on the old laptop drive till it's done, I just might get that data back, too. And after that, I might install an older Linux on the thing. I'm told Linux sometimes has better luck making stuff work than such an old version of Windows is likely to have.
Vista-capable? Not a chance. XP? Not likely. Win 2000 server? Maybe.
I really hate to throw stuff out. I now have three laptops, the desktop, all working, three working printers, a half-dozen mostly working harddrives, and a whole pile of other "useless" stuff. Only reason I was able to get this (newer) laptop working was because of all the old junk I held onto for no discernable reason, except as a last-ditch fallback machine or two. Sometimes, being a Baby Boomer pays off, just a little bit.
As part of my labors today, I dug out my first edition copy of "Upgrading and Repairing PCs." I didn't remember how floppy cables worked.
Chance favors the prepared mind. And the first rule of the intelligent tinkerer is, "Save all the Parts."