In case anyone wants an update, or for those that want to learn from this, the trouble turned out to be related to either a drive driver or IDE cable problem.
I realized something was wrong when I started loosing my drives during bootup. Only a few times would the second of my two drives be recognized on bootup, and subsequently in XP's Windows Explorer. More problems developed when I tried to play an audio CD in my CD ROM while working with the computer. Things became super slow and very unstable! The drives obviously did not want to work well together.
I opened the case and isolated drives one by one. My main drive, when on its own worked quickly and flawlessly. In fact, Windows reinstalled the driver after "New Hardware was found." I removed the IDE cables and snapped them into their respective master and slave drives. Everything has been working weel ever since.
I'm not sure if a cable went loose over time, or the system had a hiccup and needed some prodding around, but in the end, I am happy. Thanks for all that helped!