New Linux install- Ext. HD detection concern - YAST
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1, 2. Can't say a word about YAST. Everything YAST can do can be done manually and this is my preferred way.
3. You can retain data on a separate partition. Linux will not destroy it unless you do something wrong.
4. FAT32 filesystem is commonly used for cross-platform file storage. However, some people do not like it because it is very primitive and most of file attributes cannot be set.
I strongly advise to back up your data now.
5. Windows viruses, trojans etc. are harmless in *nix environment. You can open them and they still can't do their evil thing. Some old viruses can destroy data structures on hard disk, like deleting partition table. This is the only kind what can actually damage your Linux installation. Haven't seen such a virus for years. When buiding dual-boot system install XP first. Search these forums for tips, this has been adressed numerous times here.