but though I can restore an image of the "recovery partition" to my new hard drive, Windows refuses to actually restore or install from that partition, with many interesting variations on that refusal. (For instance: when it claims to be restoring a factory image, in fact it erases everything on the hard drive and replaces it with nothing. Windows 7 setup boots from a DVD, then refuses to proceed because it needs DVD drivers (and can't find any from the manufacturer's driver install disk or downloaded drivers on a USB thumb drive). Etc.)
I have given up and sent a request to Dell for an actual OS install DVD. For now I have hooked the monitor, keyboard, and trackball up to the netbook, which does work, I have to keep reminding myself, and the inconveniences are very very minor things in the grand scheme.
. . . such as that my iPod now thinks it has no music on it. (It does.) Joy.