Yes it is a difficult subject.
You can use Windows own backup utility to backup files and settings but to my mind it has one big drawback. If your Windows Operating System, (OS), stops working and cannot be accessed, those backup files are useless. They need a Windows Operating System to be able to access and de-code the files so they can be restored.
So, personally I would not use XP's own backup application.
There are two ways you can do this, but neither is quick and simple, and both have their strengths and weaknesses.
1] Invest in dedicated backup and restore software like Acronis True Image or Norton's Ghost.
These 'take an image' of everything on your system, all the files, the registry, everything. The image files will be large, especially with todays OS's, so possibly copying them, (or burning as the term is used), to DVD may not be useful. Certainly CD's would not because their capacity is now too small. However I know that Acronis will copy/burn large files across multiple DVD's, and then you use the Acronis CD itself to bootup and recover that image back to the hard drive. But to do that, you need 2 CD/DVD ROMs. One for the Acronis CD, and another for the backup files.
A better way perhaps is to have a 2nd hard disk installed in the computer, or another partition already available on the existing hard disk, or an external USB hard drive. A 2nd drive either internal or external is preferable to a 2nd partition on an existing drive, because if that existing drive fails, then you have lost everything.
2] Don't bother with copying the whole OS.
Instead, use DVD's to copy/burn those important files you cannot lose, eg photos, music, videos, documents, etc, and keep those safely backed up. In addition to those important files, you can copy to disk particular files like downloaded application installer files, (those applications/programs that you download from the internet then use to install software), emails, browser Favorite files or Bookmark files, and any lists you keep of passwords, email settings, internet setup settings, and so on.
Then, if ever the OS fails, you get out the XP CD that came with your machine and carry out a full reformat and re--install and then use the DVD's to add back in those files you want.
If you don't have that XP CD then a quick phone call to the computer manufacturer or supplier and they will send you a duplicate for a small charge. Remember you will need a separate CD for the drivers. They should supply that as well.
Neither option is easy. I use Acronis True Image and backup to an external USB hard drive. But I also backup the files I really can't lose to separate DVD's.
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