Okay, so this is really simple then! I pick any Linux operating system, make a CD and restart the computer, install it, and I can get to all my files?
You're saying Mint 12 is good. This is probably the stuff 100-page threads here, but can you recommend me a simple operating system? The only programs I need are OpenOffice, Texmaker, Maple, Firefox, Adobe Reader, a "Paint" and a "Notepad".