When I was ignorant of these things myself and looking for a good Linux distribution, I followed similar advice and wasted a lot of time digging through distrowatch. It just got me more confused.
I personally think Mepis is the least confusing for a Linux beginner switching from Windows
BTW, despite the "buy" link on that page, Mepis is available for free download and unrestricted use. Buying the CD might be more convenient.
One note, burn .iso's slooooowly
On many images on several different computer with different CD and DVD drives, I never
had a problem simply letting ImgBurn automatically select the settings. I don't know enough to tweak them and fortunately I never needed to.
do a md5checksum on the .iso file to make sure it downloaded correctly)
On many different downloads of .iso files, I never
got one with the right size but wrong contents. With FTP and HTTP downloads of very big files, I very often got files that were far short of the correct length. But that is easy to spot even without md5. Bit torrent is a lot more robust. I've never seen that think it was done when it hadn't delivered a complete and perfect file.
Before I started using Linux, I found the instructions for checking md5 on downloads very confusing. Most of those instructions are written by and for Linux users. The tools are available and easy for Windows users as well, but decent instructions for which tool to use and how to use it may be hard to find. I've forgotten what I finally figured out about checking md5 on Windows and usually I don't. Skipping that hasn't been a problem yet.
Originally Posted by cardboardtoast
make sure you have a disc burning program that can burn .iso's, such as ImgBurn.
I strongly recommend ImgBurn
It is free and works real well and is less confusing than typical CD burning programs.
In any CD burning program there is a correct operation for burning an .iso and there is an incorrect operation. There is no standard for naming those two operations and lots of beginners pick the wrong one.
In ImgBurn, the correct operation is called
Write image file to disc
The incorrect operation is called Write files/folder to disc.
If you can't tell which is the correct write operation in your CD software, figure it out before using that software. If you only found one of the two write operations in a Windows CD writing program, it is almost certainly the wrong one (switch to ImgBurn). That "wrong" operation is the one that should be used when you are using a CD or DVD as backup media for files from your PC. It is wrong because saving a .iso on a CD as a backed up file is not the same thing as burning a .iso to a CD as an image.