Whilst plunking around the
aforementioned Dell's now-tiny (40 gig) HDD, I finally had stumbled upon
underutilized installers which had gone whacky, rendering legitimately
installed on-board applications nearly useless.
Put another way, each time anyone tried to open, say, Word or Power Point, a pop-up would assert itself aggressively, insisting the feature was on a disk or some other outside-of-machine resource, and would the operator at the helm please be so kind as to insert same pronto; otherwise said ostensibly on-board application would fail to launch, as indeed it did.
But then, if you farted a certain way, the program would start.