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Firstly - people feel free to correct me if I go wrong - I'm still quite green to linux.
Right, here we go with the answer.
If you have been using windows on the machine then you'll have an MS file system for your hard disk. That is NTFS for windows XP.
Linux will want a linux compatible file system, so you'll need to set that up. I think most installers will guide you through setting up a file system for your drive. The ones I've used certainly have.
If you end up having to do it manually then do a search on google or the like, for 'linux fdisk' and you should find information on how to use the command (fdisk or cfdisk) to set it up.
I found it handy to go to the website for the version of linux and print off an install guide first to keep it handy for walking you through this installer. It's not like windows setup and for the newbie it could leave you scratching your head.
I never had to bother with this since I have two different hdd's, but I'm quite sure that partitioning may be done just to free up space besides the exisisting installation (XP) and that thus the free space may be formatted and prepared for linux installlation without doing anything with or to the existing installation.
Only thing that happens is that the boot sector of your hdd may be changed (depending on wether you're going to boot from floppy or with a bootloader like grub or lilo) But even if this goes wrong the XP bootloader may be set back to original without having to reinstall (happened to me)
Hope to have eased your mind and succes with your debian installation.
I was able to fix it all up during install. All is good with that.
Well, I just got Debian today. The installation was smooth apart from a few things, NIC and Sound. That can only be fixed by new cards (they're pos on board on an Aptiva).
The CDs didn't contain the window manager I wanted (fluxbox) and when I typed 'startx' it loaded KDE (which imo looks horrible), they should've contained fluxbox. I can't connect until I get my new nic. And I'll download it then.
But now here is a problem I *hate:* the resolution. It's stuck on 800x600 or *gasp* 640x480. I had it set to be able to also accept 1024x768. How can I get my resolution up to that?
I'm going to persevere with Linux. I'm not giving up. I'd like to be great at it. So could someone please help me?
Debian as a rule of thumb is for people who aren't concerned by the lack of GUIs. You seem to have chosen to dive in at the deep end Redhat for instance provides such a resolution switcher thingy. Oh, I think GNOME and KDE may provide one themselves once XFree 4.3 is out
The resolution/network problem is fixed.
KDE looks a little better now the kicker isn't taking up 50% of the screen when it's set to tiny. I haven't been able to install fluxbox though.
But thanks all.
How I did it: '/etc/X11/XF86Config-4' <-- I edited that, and put my monitors sync rates where they had ungoshly low numbers substituting them. I'm happy with what I have at the moment, I'll want it better soon, but now I'm just going to get the feel of Debian.
mhearn: I chose debian because I know people who if I get fubar'd up for me to fix, they people can come over and show me. So far I haven't needed that.
For those interested this is being written using Debian, KDE, Mozilla.