That's my own plan. You seem to be very technically minded so you're far ahead of me there, and you already have your important data on other hard disks, and that is better than many we see here.
I don't know about imaging a complete drive onto an external. You would need specialised software to do that and to recover the data back onto an internal drive if need be, unless you intend removing the external casing and connecting the drive as an internal. But why not just do what you are already doing?
Keep your personal files elsewhere. External hard drives are good as long as you are aware that those drives can fail as well as internals, so more than one copy is needed. CD/DVD is fine, but if you have a lot of personal data, you might need a factory's worth of optical media to copy it all to.
Keep all of your software installation CDs safe, and any software you download and install off the internet, save the installation files elsewhere for if ever they are needed again. Make sure you know where the drivers are.
Make a note of settings, email passwords/usernames, POP/SMTP settings, other passwords, and save elsewhere. Browser bookmarks/favorites you may want to keep.
Then you just reload XP if you have to, and spend a day re-introducing all the data from your backups.
I have backed up some of my important data onto other hard drives in my computer. Obviously not the best plan.
I'd like to backup to an external hard drive. I know I could copy files manually. I also know that there are ways to clone or image the entire hard drive with all its programs so I just reload that image and I'm up and running.
Those seem to be the two extremes, but I'm not sure where to start and what software I'd need. If anyone can point me in the right direction or recommend some good software that would be great.
I'm running WinXP. I built the computer myself and just replaced the MB, RAM CPU and Video card. So I'm pretty computer literate, but my skills are a little out of date
Thanks a lot