There are two answers as to how things turned out.
I had enough room left on that hard drive to, using GParted, shrink the old partition, move it to the back of the drive, mark it as not bootable, create a new partition in front of it. And do a fresh install there. That way, I have access to the old stuff while having a new installation as well. Note: if you try this, you must use the advanced commaneds in GParted to run fdisk and then xpert mode to fix the partition entry order.
As far as the original problem that got me attempting a repair install, there is a file called USB.inf that went missing from my system. System file checker does not check for this file. Apparently, all it does is when an unknown USB device is plugged in, the system checks it's signature with a table in this USB.inf file, which tells the system which usb drivers to run with. I went ahead and found this out because after my new install. the hardware in question worked fine, but then a few days later, it would not work if I plugged it into a different USB port. Something was overwriting the file. I found the solution to the problem because it is a sometimes problem with some USB printers.
I got the file off the internet, and the device installs to all the ports just fine.
But really, really not worth it. I highly recommend NOT doing a repair install unless you have exhausted all other possibilities