Originally Posted by tsunamidave
how do i set up a dual boot
Pick a distro - using the earlier suggestion of ones that can be "tried" as live CD distro - because you don't install anything to your hard drive.
Once you have an idea what you wanted to try (don't forget, theres also ones that are considered "easy" for the new user - Mandriva, or maybe PCLinuxOS are excellent, and dispite the reputation as newbie distros, they are complete and fully featured).
One hard drive or two ? Well mandriva has the ability to make some space on a 1 hdd system, if you have 2, then make sure that whichever hdd you wanted to use has all the files copied over to the main windows one i.e. the one with the XP system files is a sensible place to keep all the windows stuff.
Erm I'm thinking Mandriva here, because having used it a while ago and found it very good, I learned the other day that it will also set up a default partitioning scheme of /swap, / and /home (and no, you don't need to worry about that yet, but it's a good thing anyway).
If you have access to a partitioning app like Partition Magic or similar, then it just takes one of the things away that the installer will have to do - Unallocated space for the distro is often handy as it makes it a "no brainer" decision as to where to put the linux.
then, put the install disc in and boot it.
The default options for Mandriva always worked fine for me when I was using it (oh, and if the system starts but doesn't touch/look at the disc then it's probable that you need to change the boot sequence in your BIOS so that it's looking at a CD/DVD drive before the hard drive(s)).
You will need to remember to put the bootloader onto the first section of the first hard drive (yes that does overwrite the windows bootloader, but if you don't then if makes booting the linux so much more of a PITA). Then when you've installed and rebooted, the bootloader offers you a choice of which OS to boot.
In fact, I'm presuming that "it" (mandriva) still has a nice little preview/tutorial thing on the disc(s). You'd have to obtain (download/burn and/or buy) the disc(s) and then stick the first CD (or DVD) into a drive and then just search it under windows to see whats there (mandriva used to have it with a nice "autorun" for the preview/tutorial).
Other distros might have this facility, but the only one I've used that does is Mandriva.