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I know that "the chaps" are trying to teach you how to mend the system seenugece but I always found when I first played with linux that it was considerably easier to just re-install it, but tell it to use existing partitions - then it shouldn't affect your XP in anyway.
just carefully read all the text on the pages as the installer proceeds - mandriva (and mandrake before) was historically very helpful during installations.
At some later time, you might then learn a bit about better partition schemes (presuming that it's just offering one for the existing windows, one for mandriva and one for /swap) where you'd have a few more (and better) options.
The only downside of just chucking the disc in and doing a re-install is that any data you might have collected will be lost (again, as you get more confident with linux, you'll understand about the partitioning thing I already mentioned and the benefits of backing up personal data etc).
At your stage, it can (from memory) be very confusing. Not because linux is "hard", but it's rather different from the "spoonfed" attitude of windows.
That's why I have never had the pleasure of using a rescue Disc, I always use the route bigjohn suggest. I have images of my root partitions, only takes me 8 minutes to wipe out the problem partition with zeros, make a new partition and load the latest smooth updated image. Eight minutes is allot faster than searching the net and forums for answers, can't even make a cup of coffee and it's time to boot up a fresh updated installation. Data is stored in a data partition, same with the images.
I do learn allot, I'm very busy learning things that put money in my pocket, by studying on-line material. Time is very expensive in this part of the world where a common labourer makes an average of $60.00 an hour. I can't afford spending a week or two trying to get my system running smooth so I can go back to making money, as a good part of my business is computer related.
Spending less than ten minutes to resolve a technical issue is the obvious choice for me in a fast paced world. Would I be able to find the time to study if all my spare time was dedicated to getting my system up so I can access the material I need?.
It's still winter (sort of) here, this is the only time of year I have spare time.