I love the underdog. And that's why you wouldn't have found me investing in Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) a few years back. These stocks were so beloved -- and overpriced -- that I snickered at the prospect of buying in.

But times, they are a-changing. These stocks I once hated are starting to look pretty good.

Head to Home Depot?
I usually see red at the sight of orange aprons. I can't recall ever having an enjoyable experience at a Home Depot, and I was excited to watch Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) emerge as a legitimate contender with cleaner and brighter stores.

A few years ago, I even bashed the home improvement chain's investment prospects. And for good reason. The stock was the worst-performing component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2002 -- and it hasn't done much since, either.

But that leaves us today with a pretty strong company trading for just 10 times forward earnings. Remember, this was once a great growth story that sold for a multiple closer to 50. And while the housing boom may be cyclical toast, and rising rates may have shelved your remodeling plans, Mother Nature has a funny way of making sure we keep needing hammers and new coats of paint.

Dell's downturn
I have always loved the Dell story. I spent my college dorm days playing backgammon, ordering late-night subs, and walking around the Eaton Hall fourth-floor hallways in Gumby slippers. Michael Dell, on the other hand, began assembling computers and never looked back.

Dell had its days in the sun. As its shares peaked toward the end of 1999 on Y2K upgrade hysteria, the company that revolutionized direct retailing in the PC space went on to trade for better than 50 times earnings.

Where are we now? Dell is struggling and losing ground to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), whose margin-widening ways have stolen the Wall Street accolades. Dell isn't broken, of course. While earnings are tanking, the company should bounce back when the upcoming release of Windows Vista gets the next upgrade cycle going in a few months.

In other words, the recent slide is an opportunity to get a piece of "Dell, dude" before the rest of the market catches on.

Move in on Microsoft
Rooting against Mr. Softy is easy. You can be a fan of the ubiquitous class of Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) or lean on free, open-architecture operating software like Linux. Microsoft's Windows is still the most popular operating system, but even a good chunk of that base probably wouldn't mind giving Microsoft a mouthful over the buggy, virus-prone nature of Windows.

Maybe it's the way Microsoft has gone after smaller players in the past, taking advantage of its operating-system stronghold to shoehorn as many other applications as possible into systems. Until recently, Microsoft was a bully. However, the company seems mortal these days. Despite beating rivals to the punch in rolling out its next-generation video game console, the Xbox 360 is still a distant second to the PlayStation franchise. And while it may have the most-used browser, it's currently in contention for the bronze medal in the paid search race (where the dot-com gravy lies).

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) isn't just the top dog in search. A lot of the organic stretching and timely acquisitions taking place at Google seem to be aiming at Microsoft's jugular. It can't kill Microsoft, but if it aims just right, it can probably make it weaker.

Imagine that? Microsoft is no longer a bully. And the stock is no longer pricey, either. Since the stock peaked more than six years ago, its shares have been cut in half.

See cheap, buy cheap
I didn't think I'd see the day when I'd cease snickering at Home Depot, Dell, and Microsoft. It's happened, though. These quality names have fallen that far in price.

But are they buys? Fool value guru Philip Durell thinks so. He has recommended all three stocks to his Inside Value subscribers -- as well as a hailstorm of other blue chips on sale. If you'd like to read his thoughts on Home Depot, Dell, and Microsoft, and all of his other recommendations, click here to give Inside Value a try free for 30 days. There is no obligation to subscribe.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can be pretty cheap at times, but he doesn't own any of the stocks in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.