What do you mean - didn't they at least give you a CD to enable you to restore the computer to the way it was when you got it? If not, go back and make them give you one. I do know that MS have stoped them giving out a WIndows XP setup disk, but that's no excuse for leaving you in the lurch. However, if you're talking about data backup, you can do any number of things as it is - the simplest thing is to drag 'n drop your data files onto a re-writable CD. Or you could get yourself a zip drive, which will comes with its own software. Or look on the internet for some free or shareware backup utilities, or even the downloads section of this site.
I have used both Drive Image 5 and Norton Ghost 2003. The latter is more up to date but still requires that the PC boot into DOS for the image to be created.
However, you may want to consider Drive Image 7 as you can create images without leaving Windows. There is a trial version available from click here. Having tried this, I found that the backup operation was quick and I will probalby change to DI7 in the not too distant future
To answer a few of the comments. Yes, I do have a recovery disk but neither this nor my installed WinXP has a backup application that I can install. It just ain't listed. I appreciate that I can drag and drop on to CD but I'm really looking for a relatively cheap shareware programme that runas automatically and can be set and forgotten. I don't think I want to go down the imaging road - it seems like sledgehammers cracking nuts. I have looked all the links - really good especially the Backup, Backup, Backup started by Cesar last Sunday. Still hoping for some shareware programs that someone has used and can recommend. I have about 1.5Mb of data to back up and I have one of those pen drives (the doohickies that plug into USB) which is slow but OK for backups. (It is, isn't it?)
Get Drive Image and make a Image of your entire Drive, you can put it all back as when you made it fully working OS and programs in about 5 mins even if the drive goes down. If you have it on CD you can put it back on the new drive.