Meanwhile, where the head meets the platter, I was able to image my two ailing drives (one the boot drive) to two new HDDs of a larger sizes. Using Norton for XP (back when Norton was Norton & meant something).

Interesting thread. I must say, I've been in PCs since 1983 (IBM PC with two FULL height floppy drives and 16 K on the motherboard). No HDD. But it makes me a bit queasy to remove a reserved system partition in order to get a backup to work. I also think that Windows is better and better (since v3.4) but MS does make mistakes. Putting out a backup scheme with the kind of flaw I've found and having exactly zero corporate support is, well, another four letter word.