I have asked for help with backup issues recently. The forum team were ashelpful as ever, but I could not resolve the problem. That is, until I researched the Windows Backup Utility which I remeber from the DOS days.
Apparetnly, OEM WinXP Home PCs do not routinely have ntbackup.msi installed; this utility can be found on the WinXP CD (if you have one) or the "Recovery CD" from your supplier. It is on the WinXP CD in the \VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP folder. But for those who don't have that CD, download it from a copy of the file can be found here: click here. It'll automatically start the download, remember where it stores and go there to double-click it and start the installation.
I have used this successfully and feel much happier now that my important files/partitions are backed up to my external HDD. What is more, the utility is FREE!