One possible course of action:
a. Download and install SIW Download - http://www.gtopala.com/siw-download.html
. This is a very useful tool that will provide you current info about your system. Save the file generated on a floppy or whatever (file size will be less than max floppy disk content).
b. One of the key items saved will be your valid XP license key
, it will be under the Licenses category and will be listed as the Windows Key. If you do not have a valid, legal license to use XP...this outline procedure won't help you.
c. Other potentially useful info saved will be summary data re your CPU, motherboard, network adapter, RAM/memory, video card or chip, and audio card or chip.
d. If you have a system sold by Gateway, Dell, HP, eMachines, etc...write down the vendor and the model number of your system. Doing this will facilitate your downloading drivers if you ever want to update such or reinstall such.
e. Find someone who has the same version of XP installed as you. If you have XP Home, you need someone with XP Home, if you have XP Pro...you need someone with XP Pro. Since you are doing a clean install, it doesn't matter if the CD includes SP1, SP2, and SP3...these SPs are available for download and installation once you get XP properly installed.
f. Ask the person that you found to either allow you to use their CD (not the owner's license) to do an install...or ask them to burn you a copy of the MS XP CD. Getting a copy of recovery/restore disks will not do the job...it must be a MS XP genuine install CD...and it must be the same version that you have a valid license to install.
g. Delete existing partition(s) on the system...and install from the CD you now have, using your valid key info when the prompt comes up for that.
If it were me, I would ensure that I have the network adapter drivers handy before I bother doing any of this. The network drivers are the first ones required, since Internet access is required in order to validate your install via Product Activation...and the Internet will be the source of downloading critical updates and drivers necessary.
If it were me, I would also ensure that I have the network downloads from Microsoft for SP1, SP2, and SP3...if such are necessary later. Each of these files will be approximately 500MB or so and each can be stored on an individual CD beforehand.
There are no legalities involved in having someone burn you a copy of an operating system for which you have a valid, legal license to use. The license is the real merchandise, which is why the license comes either attached to the system or is in the CD packaging.
IMO, too many persons have unnecessarily allowed themselves to be put in the position of having a system without having the necessary tools it takes to sometimes repair the system or do a reinstall of the O/S (for whatever reason). People lose original CDs, some just don't think about the possible future need...I could go on and on.
This is my vision of a workaround that no one can find fault with and doesn't encompass doing anything risky or illegal.