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Thanks John. I'll sticky this as an FYI for everyone.
First the tale of woe - I switched from Comcast to Verizon FIOS, and in the process of uninstalling the free Comcast McAfee and installing a new purchased McAfee subscription my XP operating system blew up and was not able to be restored/recovered -- even with a new hard disk. But I did have a full compressed and encrypted backup on an external hard drive. (And my Quicken file backup seperately by the Quicken program).
I ended up buying a brand new Vista Home Premium machine, downloaded my McAfee subscription and tried to retore my back up. No go. I got an error message that indicated I was denied access to the "Documents and Settings" folder on the VISTA machine. I tried the procedure to "take ownership" of the folder I found on this website and forum, but found out that procedure is not possible for "Documents and Settings" in VISTA -- and there is no way to redirect the McAfee restore to another folder on the VISTA machine either.
(By the way McAfee chat help was of no use)
So I finally restored to my wife's XP laptop -- after having to "take ownership" through the safe mode procedure noted above. I then had to go through and copy folders manually to my external hard drive and then - and only then - move them to the VISTA machine.
The bottom line is that there is no problem using Backup if you restore to the same operating system -- XP to XP or VISTA to VISTA -- but it doesn't work going from XP to VISTA. So, my advice is to just have a big external hard drive and keep your files backed up there - uncompressed and unencrypted. Or use a back up program that allows you to redirect a restore to a different folder!