Hi, and thanks for that. I guess I mentioned trying XP as I have a working XP disk and just thought something was better than nothing.
I've progressed and got the computer booting from a flash drive. The new HDD is fine. But still can't recover to it. Windows 7 File Recovery doesn't seem to work, and nor does Acronis. But then, maybe the backup from the original hard disk was corrupted.
The original HDD still works, by the way, just very slowly most of the time (sometimes it's quick n fine). I've run HDD Regenerator several times and it generally finds bad sectors and repairs them, in different places each time. It's also failed other HDD tests. So best to replace, I figure, before it completely goes.
Anyways, I may try to back up and recover again, or perhaps get a Windows 8 disk from somewhere. I'm assuming the activation key is built into the computer so perhaps that's the best way to go.
Seems like none of this is as easy as it should be!