Tonight I was able to install windows on an old 40 gb hard drive that I had laying around (it used to be in my tivo box before I hacked it and put in a 60 gb instead), start the computer, and copy off all important files. So that's a relief.
I then downloaded Western Digital's diagnostic program and had it run the quick scan on my drive...and the drive promptly failed. Fortunately, Western Digital seems to have an outstanding RMA system. I didn't even have to call them or jump through any hoops. I just filled out the RMA request form with a brief justification and (if I'm understand this right) they're going to send a new drive out to me--holding my credit card for collateral of course. My only obligation will be to send back my defective drive within 30 days...I might have to pay for shipping, but maybe not, I'm unclear on that.
I'm hopeful that the new drive will be here by next week, which would mean that I'd have time to get back up and running before the contest modules start pouring in at the end of the month.
It's still kind of a shame though. I had just started playing Dark Waters and was really enjoying it. I can see why there have been complaints about the lengthy cutscenes at the start, but I actually enjoyed them--and most surprisingly of all, with one painful exception (which I think is Adam Miller's mom), I found the voice acting to be pretty darn good--especially that of the two major companions, Heather and Daniel. I agree with Maerduin that bad voice acting can kill a module, but so far, so good. The story also is really interesting and potentially really deep.
But, I have saved my saved games (and, in fact, everything /mydocuments/neverwinternights2), so everything should be there when I return. In the meantime, I'll probably occupy myself with my other hobbies, as I don't want to clutter up my new windows install with graphics drivers and such--I want it to be crisp and clean so that it'll be ready to go the next time I have a problem like this.
Update: The replacement has already shipped. Truly impressive service. It's UPS ground, so it should arrive mid-late next week (the tracking number isn't visible yet).