After more googling favorite daughter found a mail order place, Compusource Inc, in Swedesboto NJ. The guy on the telephone knew how many laptops they had in stock, at which warehouse, which ones were loaded with XP, and promise a before Christmas delivery. Gave 'em my credit card number, and lo and behold, UPS drops the machine off on the porch. It powered up, runs well, detects the wireless router, and isn't completely overloaded with craplets. Comes with a real Windows XP CD in case you need to re install after some terrible catastrophe. In fact, only ONE icon, the recycle bin is on the desk top.
So we do some cleaning. Zap Norton antivirus, the trial version of office, and some other stuff. Try out the recommended backup utility. The backup utility asks for 18!!! CD's or a mere 3 DVD's. We feed it the first blank CD. A lot of backing happens, but we only get thru the first DVD and the backup util cannot move onto the 2nd and 3rd. Three DVD's is 15 Gbytes of stuff, and it is unclear how much of it we care about. The Windows XP disc has all the HP drivers and Windows on it. What more do we care about on a virgin machine?