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Yes and no
Yes and no. Yes, there are external enclosures that let you convert an internal drive to external, but no, that won't necessarily allow you to boot the OS from that drive. Pretty much every version of Windows is specifically designed NOT to run off of anything but an internal HDD. Windows 8 is something of an exception, but to be honest, I don't really know a lot of the specifics, just that I remember reading something or another about how you could create a bootable USB flash drive version of the OS. If I had to guess, it would probably be something akin to a portable Safe Mode. Really only functional enough for some basic troubleshooting and triage.
In your situation, you'll need to completely restore the OS, and if you can't access a restore partition, you'll need physical restore media. If you didn't make any when you first got the computer, or you've lost it, you can ask the manufacturer of the computer about obtaining a copy. Whether or not they'll have that still for a model that shipped with Vista is a bit questionable, but it's the only way you'll avoid paying full price for a copy of Windows at retail. To the best of my knowledge, Vista was never digitally distributed like Windows 7, so you can't just download the disc image, burn it, and use the product key on the unit. Leaving you back at having to buy a full retail priced copy if you can't get the restore media from the manufacturer.
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