1) Make sure you have an image backup of your initial configuration. I don't know if your computer will come with some kind of recovery CD or whatever, but if not, the first thing you should do is to image your drive -- if anything goes wrong (while partitioning, etc.) you can always go back to the initial state — and make sure that the image is valid as steeladept recommanded. (If possible, test it!)
If Acronis 7 (true image or disk director??) doesn’t do what you want (but it should), you could also try one of the free Open Source partitioning and imaging Solutions like gparted http://gparted.sourceforge.net/
(only for partitioning) or parted magic http://partedmagic.com/
(does imaging too) -- you'll need to dowload (about 50mb, I think) and burn them on a CD. Gparted is easy to use and reliable. I must admit that I have never used the Open source imaging solutions though (only on parted magic), only the partitioning one.
2) Of course , after imaging, just partition your hard drive (using the chosen boot CD). That, you probably already know, but anyway! If your computer comes with Windows preinstalled, you could just keep it as it is and create 1 or 2 extra partitions (which will probably be called E:, if D: is taken by your DVD drive) — that is if there was only one to begin with. Anyway… the point is : make sure you have at least 2 partitions. One for the OS, and one for your personal stuff. Personally, I like the setup in your first post. I have almost the same: the active partition C: for Windows and apps, E: for all my personal stuff (D: is the DVD drive -- but drive letters, as you probably know, can be changed), F: for temporary stuff (downloads, movies, etc.). There are other partitions, but they don't really count : they're for Linux, when I feel like playing a bit (2 ext3 partitions + 1 swap).
(Generally speaking, I find that it's uselessly complicated to have too many partition — especially if you have a very good backup system with reliable media and software).
Normally, if you have Acronis 7 as a boot CD/DVD, and if it's compatible with the OS you want to install (presumably XP...), you shouldn't have to deal with all the details about system partition, boot partition etc. If you need to install windows yourself, just make sure that the first partition is an active primary partition (and that it’s not hidden — it shouldn’t be anyway). That’s it. Do whatever you want with the others…
If you have 2 hard drives, you could put the paging file on the second drive (if Windows is on the first). Otherwise, I'd just leave it on drive C. It's just sipler and I've never seen a real noticeable gain in performance. Some won't agree, I'm know... But my paging file “philosophy” goes like that : once your paging file starts to get used too much and decreases performance, it's just time for more RAM.
3) After imaging, partitioning, etc., you will then either do a clean install of Windows XP (booting with the Windows CD/DVD), or just start from the preinstalled OS on the machine (if there's anything valuable there). That's what I did with my Dell : I usually do a clean install, but this time I decided to only uninstall a couple unwanted software and I started from there. It was quick and painless.
I don't know if any of that will be useful.