IT'S A ROYAL PAIN IN THE ASS
The registry cleaner coughed up an entire trainload of dicks on my registry, so thoroughly ruining it that I couldn't even rename a folder. I could create one, but if I tried to rename it, Vista wouldn't let me, giving a nonsensical error about how the folder didn't exist. (Duh!)
Turns out that this level of borked-ness resulted in Windows being unable to copy things reliably...which is why the backup I did, to the external drive, has perhaps ten percent of the files I wanted copied.
I am so very glad I did this the way I did it. The 320 GB drive is totally intact, and if I can ever find my f-ing external interface I can copy the files I need to the 160 GB drive from it. Otherwise I'm going to have to open the case and patch the 320 in temporarily and do it that way. Either way, I still have the files even if I can't get at them just now; if I had done the reinstall on the 320, I would not.
Score one for me being paranoid; I was very resistant to the idea of wiping that drive, apparently for good reason. But that's practically the only bit of good luck that's come out of this bullshit. Everything else about this imbroglio has been an unmitigated disaster.
The install of Vista on this computer has been in near-constant use since March of 2007; that's six and a half years and there isn't a desktop OS out there that can run that length of time without accumulating a legendary amount of cruft. The registry cleaner I ran found over 5,000 defective entries, and it crashed in the middle of trying to clean them up, and that crash mangled the registry.
The registry was so mangled that nothing but a complete wipe would fix the problems the computer was having. I spent literal hours trying to find my Vista install disk and then this computer's original hard drive; when I tried to do a recovery install it "recovered" the boot partition of the 160 GB drive instead of the 320, which was set as the main drive. So I decided to put the 160 in and use it until I can figure out how to rescue the stuff from the 320...and started that at 10:30 Monday night. I futzed with the computer--dumping bloatware, updating Windows, installing the software I use, etc--until bedtime at 5 AM.
I was finally able to play WoW again at 2:30 this afternoon. WoW wouldn't run until I got proper video card drivers installed; the video card drivers wouldn't install unless I updated Vista at least to Service Pack 1. And there is no simple "download Vista Service Pack 1", of course; you "install" SP1 by running Windows Update over and over and over again, which takes an approximate eternity, especially when you must install seven years' worth of patches.
So here we are: my computer is functional again, although I currently have no access to any of my data and the only useful programs installed right now are WoW and Firefox. I don't have my Internet bookmarks, either. *sigh*
I hope I find that drive interface soon. This whole thing has been an enormous pain in the ass, which is why I tend to resist doing this kind of work on my own computers: no one will pay me for it.