Laptop or workstation - I have a Dell laptop, and have both Gentoo and Slack in addition to the XP it shipped with.
Boot loader of choice is grub - of course. No problems - current menu count is 6; gotta clean up one day
As exit3219 said, installing to the MBR - if done properly - should be no drama.
If you want to back up the MBR first, try the following (floppy mounted at /dev/floppy);
dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/floppy/mbrsave.dat bs=512 count=1
Do your worst - if it all goes to hell in a handbasket, MBR can be restored easily from something like Knoppix (Morphix ???) with
dd if=/dev/floppy/mbrsave.dat of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=1
However, you do have the option to install into the MBR of your own disk, and set that as primary boot disk in the BIOS.
From there you can chainload Windows, or change it back in the BIOS to boot Windows. Lots of people (apparently) do the latter, but seems unnecessary amount of screwing around to me.