After the painful process of reinstalling WinXP, I felt compelled to do what I can to avoid repeat doing this again in the future. I figure that what I needed was a disk imaging program to backup my windows partition so that I can just restore it without having to go through the install process again.
I've used Norton Ghost before, but the version I had wasn't very good. Setting up a bootable CD wasn't easy and it required me to go to DOS in order to backup. New versions might not need to do this.
My criteria were that it must be easy to use, can automatically backup to CD/DVDs, can easily create bootable rescue disk, and can restore the backup without Windows. I settled on True Image and tonight I tested it out. The reviews were favorable and wasn't too complicated.
My first three CDs went into the trash. I finally set the priority to "Normal" (from the default "Low") and was able to burn the backup CDs. The aborted writes before changing the setting were very annoying since there was no explanation given as to why they failed. True Image also installed an annoying animated icon in the task tray which I found to be distracting. I took out the various startup commands since I don't need to do scheduled backups on this computer. Once I changed the settings, everything worked without a hitch.
Finally, I feel like I've gotten the different boxes up-and-running.