How do I make a bootable copy of the hard drive
With both the original and the backup drive connected to the computer, use Norton Ghost, which will copy everything, including the partition to your backup drive.
I use this method myself, and have lost count of the number of times I've had to recover the main drive, after its contents have been vandalised by my experiments. There is no real need to format, or fdisk the destination drive....Ghost copies it all. Hope this helps.
Once I have got all the programs installed and working properly on my PC:
There are many commercially available disk-imaging programs, and even a few free ones. Norton GHOST is the classic. Acronis True Image may be easier to use. Do a Google search on "disk image" for more options.
One trick/caution: To be sure that the restored image is bootable, make an image of the full disk, not just the primary partition.
For example, if you have one partition, called C:, an image of C: is not the same as an image of the whole disk. The image of the whole disk includes the master boot record, whereas the partition image of C: does not.
Second trick/fix: If you recovery a partition image to a new hard drive, and it fails to boot, try writing a new master boot record. This can be done via FDISK from a DOS floppy or the FIXMBR command from the XP recovery console.