$59 seems like a fair price for Windows, but I bet you don't have to pay it.
Get on the phone with Microsoft and explain the situation, tell them your hard drive died (or whatever the actual situation was) and don't take no for an answer.
Also try Compaq, tell them you lost the restore disk or whatever, they will probably be willing to send you a restore disk for a nominal charge.
I love Linux, so does everyone else on these forums
but we are also sympathetic to your familiarity with Windows, so I think it's best to get that working first, then once you're less stressed maybe you'll have fun learning about Linux as a side hobby.