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passwords, shadows, and other business

I was recently compelled to reinstall the base system on my machine.  I
didn't reinitialize or repartition, but little did I know that when I
reinstalled the system, essential /etc files, including the password files,
would be quietly replaced.  Luckily, I backed up my working system 
before I started fussing around with things.

I restored the old /etc directory and ftp-ed it back to my machine.  I
started searching for files that had been changed.  I manually overwrote
some of them with the old files (files such as inittab, init.d/rc,
inetd.conf, syslog.conf), yet there are others which I'm afraid to touch,
but need to. 

Among the files which were replaced were the password files: passwd, 
passwd-, shadow, shadow-, group, and group-.  One of the detrimental 
effects is that root has no password, so anyone can sit down at the 
machine and login as root without further authentication (ain't that 
secure?).  I tried changing the password using the "passwd" command, but 
/etc/passwd remained unchanged.

What I'd like to know is, might I be able to use the old working passwd 
and shadow files instead?  What files does Linux need to perform any 
password authentication, and how does it do it?  I re-added all the users 
that were in the passwd file before, and used the same password for each 
user, but obviously the encryption string was different than before.  Does 
anyone have an idea about how I can fix this?

Thank you.

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