Dual booting a Windows OS with Linux

I am considering finding some Linux distribution to dual boot with either Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Ultimate. I currently have a PC with two hard drives with the two Windows operating systems installed, one on each drive. Before I decide which Linux distribution to place on a hard drive, I would want to get a feel of Linux. Which Linux distro is best for a beginner such as myself. Note I don't want a distro that does everything for me as I need to learn the kernel .
TechStudent007Asked:
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rindiConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Use a LiveCD to get the hang of it. Once you like it, there are tools to get it installed.

http://www.ubuntu.com/
http://knoppix.net
http://www.mandriva.com/
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willcrosleyCommented:
best thing i can recomend is installing linux on a VM inside your windows enviroment first. VMware or paralles will allow you to experiment all you like, and you will also be able to browse guides and look up info if your unable to boot into a desktop enviroment ;o

The links given by rindi are pretty much point and click distros. If your looking for a challenge, give gentoo a try!
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Pétur Ingi EgilssonSoftware Engineer -- ConsultantCommented:
Ubuntu does "everything" for you
openSuSE is from Novell, it does most for you
Debian is very nice and does some things for you... you can use it to learn the kernel
Centos does not do much for you.. it's mostly command line, good for kernel studies
Slackware is hardcore, it's the way of the guru !
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sda100Commented:
Hi TechStudent007,

There are dozens of popular distros, doing various levels of background for you.  You have to be careful you choose one that has good community support else you might find it hard going.  All the answers you get here will be from personal experience so don't expect everyone to agree.  Having said that, these are my thoughts:

Ubuntu - NO
CentOS - Yes (It's RHEL rebadged so has great support)
Debian - NO but only because it's too much of a PITA to configure
Gentoo - Yes, not as standard as some but has great support.
Fedora - NO
Slackware - Yes.  Never used it myself, but is regarded as close to "True" Linux as you get

Have you been to http://distrowatch.com/ ?

Steve :)
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Pétur Ingi EgilssonSoftware Engineer -- ConsultantCommented:
Slackware is regarded as close to TRUE UNIX as you get.
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Syngin9Commented:
About all I can add is you'll get the most out of what you'll learn if you pick a distribution that is or is based on one of the largest groups:

Debian /  Ubuntu
RHEL / Fedora / CentOS

I support the idea of trying a LiveCD first too although they can run a little slow.
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jmlonCommented:
Most distributions come this days with a bootloader that can handle booting many operating systems.
For the distributions I know (Ubuntu 6-7, Fedora 2-8, CentOS 3-5, OpenSuse 10.2) they all install the GRUB bootloader and automatically include your Windows partition if it is previously installed.

On the other hand, it is also possible for the windows bootloader (2k, XP) to handle the boot menu. An explanation on how to achieve this can be found here:
http://www.geocities.com/epark/linux/grub-w2k-HOWTO.html

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TechStudent007Author Commented:
Most of the information I have gathered is about the distros of Linux you have mentioned. The most advice I am getting is to use the Live-cd first and get the hang of Linux prior to installation.... Thus this answer seems to be close to what I am looking for...Thanks rindi
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rindiCommented:
your welcome
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