When we're talking about various functions of Windows XP, the same words may mean quite different things to different people.
To me, "Back-up" means making copies of important files--photos, music, documents, etc. I do this almost every day just to be sure that I don't lose anything, and it really takes no special tool. All my documents go to "My Documents." Photos and music go directly to my external drive anyway, so one of my daily tasks is to copy "My Documents" to its receiving folder on my external drive.
BUT. Somehow I think that you are talking about "backing up" Windows itself.
This takes quite a bit more doing, and is best accomplished with a disc imaging utility like Acronis.
XP does not have a native tool for making a copy of itself to another location.
The best alternative to System Restore that I've discovered is free ERUNT.
It is much quicker, and completely restores the full Registry directly from each backup file when chosen.
ERUNT info and simple tutorial: http://www.larsheder...erunt/erunt.txt
Download free ERUNT: http://www.larsheder...nline.de/erunt/
This is not
the same as a full disc image, and requires access to Windows to work, so most have a disc imaging program at work for them as well to recover from true total type disasters.
If you decide you need a Back-up program for your files and folders that will automate the process, there are several good free utilities available. If you need a disc imaging program, it is generally recommended that you purchase one. There are free disc image programs available, but none have the reputation of the top 2 paid versions. (Acronis and Ghost)