ok what distro are you trying to install ?
for a complete newbie, i reccomend ubuntu.
about the hard drive.
what file system is on it ? ext2, ext3, reiserfs ? what filesystem is installed makes a difference in what tool you use to check it. sounds like you have ext2 or ext3
e2fsck -c -v /dev/hdc1
this runs a file system check.
the -c option tells it to check for badblocks
-v tells it to be verbose in its output so you can see more of whats going on.
let us know and we will help.
linux is not all that hard, there are some very newbie friendly distrobutions out there.
But it is not the same as windows.