I started the laptop and it surprised me by indicating it was going through a hardware test. When finished it indicated that there were no hardware problems.
Next what appeared n the screen was as follows:
Your pc did not start correctly. Press RESTART to Restart Your PC which can sometimes fix the problem. You can also press Advanced Options to try other options to repair your pc.
When I click on RESTART, the Dell fails to restart and then four options appear on the screen:
1: Continue (Exit and Continue to Windows 10)
2: Use A Device (Use USB Device, Network Connection or Windows Recovery CD
3: Troubleshoot (Reset Your PC or Used Advanced Options
4: Turn Off Your PC
I’m scared to death that I’ll make the wrong choice or do the wrong thing and lose all the data on my PC. Can you provide a careful systematic approach to proceed?
If you don't have a backup of your data, the very first thing to do is remove the hard drive, mount it in a USB adapter and attach it to a working system to copy your data files. How that's done depends on the type of drive you have - if it's a standard 2.5" SATA drive, something like this will do the job:
Once you have a backup, return the drive to the system and run an extended diagnostic on it (F12 at powerup). If it fails the diagnostic, as it likely will, replace the drive - then reload the OS and your applications and restore the data backup you made.
DO NOT proceed without a backup - there is a very good chance the drive is on borrowed time and you may get only a small window of opportunity to back up your data.
If you require further information, post the system model (i.e., Inspiron N5110, 5521, etc.) and any errors that arise during the diagnostic run.