I can appreciate your frustration, Russell. The learning curve from XP to 7 can be kinda steep. One of the issues many people first have is the increased security offered by Windows 7. As you said in your post about your XP machines, "They are all standalone PCs -- stable and they let me "in"." That was one of XP's major problems ... lots of malware was able to get in as well as the authorized user(s).
When a new 7 computer is first set up, the initial account created is an administrator account so you can make required changes to the computer (like choosing language of choice, setting computer time zone, etc.) So there always has to be at least one administrator account on a 7 machine.
But to add to the confusion, this is an "unelevated" administrator account. In other words, there are some tasks (such as running a system file checker scan [sfc /scannow
] from a command prompt), that cannot be done without jumping through one more hoop. If you open a command prompt in 7 (either by typing cmd in the start menu search box or using the long way start > all programs > accessories > command prompt) you have to right-click the command prompt icon and select "Run as administrator". It's just another security feature to make it more difficult for malware to get in.
A lot of people who are the only ones using the computer leave things as is ... running with that administrator account. Nothing wrong with that if you're careful and know what sites you're visiting, what email attachments you're opening, etc. But for an extra degree of security many people operate as a standard user just because it does make it more difficult for malware to get in. This tutorial goes into more detail about the various account types.
User Account Type - Change
As far as obtaining a Windows 7 installation disk, you could check out Step 4 in this tutorial (doing a repair install of Windows 7.)
You could download the ISO file for your version of Windows 7, save it to desktop, then burn it to a DVD. If you ever did a repair install or a clean install, just use the Product Key on your Toshiba laptop to re-activate with Microsoft. Hope some of this helps and doesn't make things even more confusing.