Keith64, my 8600 also 14 month old and hard disk developed bad blocks. Since I purchased 3 year warranty, Dell shipped replacement drive. I used Ghost 9.0 to image both hidden partition and C drive to my external USB drive. Using Ghost System Restore CD I was able to copy both partitions back to the new drive.
What type of drive you have. I think mine was Travelstar 80GB. The replacement drive was Fujitsu.
Thanks, GreyMack, I'm reasonably confident I'll be able to install WinXP on what will be the C: drive. I'm most concerned about the "hidden" partition at the front of the HDD which Dell has loaded with recovery and test utilities and, presumably DOS.