You don't mention the software that you used to try to work on your images, and it would help to know that.
Your display settings have certainly gone AWOL, and the first thing to do is to reset them. As you may know, you do that by right-clicking on your desktop and selecting 'properties' from the menu that appears. Click on the 'settings' tab (I'm working blind here, because I'm running WindowsXP) or whatever in Win98 that shows you two sliders - one with the resolution, and one with the colour bit depth. Move the resolution slider until it reads 1024x768, and then see if you can move the colour bit setting until it shows '16 bit'.
If that works you should now be seeing a better display.
If it doesn't work you may have a corrupted or missing graphics card driver, or monitor driver, or both, and we'll deal with that if it crops up.
I'm puzzled - and a tad concerned - over these 'complaining noises' that you say your machine is making. Can you describe them in greater detail, and tell us precisely at what point in the proceedings they happen?