It's not unusual for any CD to become unreadable for many reasons...scratch, dirt, files may have sustained damage when copied...and so on.
If I was convinced I had a bad MS XP Home install CD...and I had a valid license for XP Home...I'd simply have someone burn me a copy of their MS XP Home CD. The files on the CD, regardless of whether it is a OEM (Microsoft OEM or system builder), upgrade or retail version of XP...are the same. Any CD with same will work with a valid XP Home license, AFAIK.
That is not necessarily true for OEM/boxmaker
(Gateway, Dell, eMachines, etc.) disks provided to customers. A company selling computers with XP Home preinstalled...takes the responsibility for support for that disk and its contents. Some manufacturers alter the contents, adding additional software for their own support purposes. So when you see any reference to a "MS XP install CD" in any authoritative source...they are referring to a Microsoft XP CD, not any of these disks which may have been modified and issued as "restore/recovery/install" CDs.
There is no problem with having someone burn you a copy of her/his MS XP install CD, it's the license that is the valuable property with the restricted usage. As long as a user pairs a valid license with the attempted install...and ensures that the license applies to the CD user (XP Home for XP Home, XP Pro for XP Pro)...there are no bumps.
<<Can an upgrade disk be used for a simple reinstall if needed?>>
Not sure what you mean. AFAIK, there is only one way to upgrade to XP and that is with an upgrade version of XP. A clean install can be done from any valid MS CD, including the upgrade version. Ditto for a repair install.
<<But if I cannot get one from someone else, is there a way I can avoid having to purchase a new disk?>>
If it were me...I'd simply ask someone (reliable and trustworthy) at any forum that I attend...to burn/mail me a copy of the appropriate CD. I suppose that I'd pay the cost of mailing, which should be less than $10...but I would then have what I consider to be a necessary tool for the O/S that I have chosen to run.
I cannot imagine being without a valid copy of Windows...it tends to make life unnecessarily difficult, IMO.
I emphasize "reliable and trustworthy" because there are a ton of persons out there who have illegal versions of XP which they have downloaded from various sites and I would not suggest using a valid license/key with any of those.
<<Could/should I invest in Acronis?>>
Can't answer that one...but I can reveal the basic reasons that I believe everyone should utilize some form of disk-imaging software, if not necessarily Acronis True Image.
The strategy of backing up (or making a disk image of your system at periodic intervals) is based on the fact that things go wrong. I've used some form of backup (Iomega Zip disks, Powerquest Drive Image) ever since my first computer. I hated the Iomega disks and was very glad when disk-imaging software appeared. It's simple, convenient, and it allows me to have a complete copy of the entire system (if I so desire). I'm still using the software that I purchased 9 years ago, which works fine with XP (but won't work with Vista or Windows 7). That $39 dollar investment made then has proven to be very useful for me, in terms of peace of mind.
Before I purchased any such program today...I would carefully consider the next operating system that I intend to use. I like XP, but I know that, at some time...I will go to Windows 7 and XP...then probably just Windows 7. When I go to Windows 7, I will need a program for disk-imaging that is compatible with it. It's a simple thing to me...but it's one that some users will not necessarily consider.
Acronis True Image will probably be my choice then because I would have confidence in it to do the job (create a disk image) from which I can easily access any file or group of files...or simply reinstall my O/S of choice.
Edit: Taken from today's site, http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList....+system+builder
Edited by hamluis, 29 March 2009 - 10:14 AM.