I'm wondering what would be the safest way to put linux as part of the system...... I would have to partition the drive but the thing is that i dont want to have data lost. Would partition magic 7 help me do this?
Partition Magic comes with a great program called Boot Magic, which you can use to choose which OS to boot. It is very flexible and has full mouse support (on boot). If you are going to use it make sure you set up linux to boot from the partition not from the master boot record, there should be an option for this when installing Linux
Keep in mind that, in most cases, all bootable partitions must be within the first 512megs of the drive. You'll also want a swap partition for Linux that is twice the size of the machine's physical RAM. A scheme like this makes sense:
1. Create a 2gig FAT32 partition and install Windows.
2. Move that partition down by 128megs and create a new partition above it -- this will be your root partition for linux.
3. Create a partition after the FAT32 partition that is 2x your physical RAM -- this will be your swap partition.
4. Break the rest of your free space into two or more partitions -- some will be FAT32 for Windows applications and others will be Linux Ex2. You'll probably want at least 3 gigs worth of space for the Linux partitions.
When you install Linux it will let you choose which partitions you'd like to format and also allow you to assign mount points. You'll want to mount the most frequently accessed partition, usually /usr, on the outside (end) of your drive to speed access times.
Whichever partition you set as active (Linux root or Windows) will be the partition that the system attempts to boot from when you start the machine.
Yupp, you're right, LILO will write to the MBR, which allows it to boot logical partitions. However, there are two reasons why you may not want to set up a system with Linux all on one logical partition:
1. You want the most frequently used partitions on the outside of your drive to speed access times. /root at the beginning of the drive and /usr at the end of the drive is a good way to achieve this.
2. If at some later date you come to your senses and decide to install a version of BSD instead, your system will already be correctly partitioned for it :-)
Each UNIX/Linux distribution usually provides a very comprehensive list of supported hardware. You'll find that most name-brand products between 1 and 4 years old are actively supported, excluding, of course, WinModems and similar components that require lots of work on the proprietary software end. Furthermore, as Linux becomes a mainstream operating system, larger numbers of hardware manufacturers are supplying Linux as well as Windows drivers with their products.
If your hardware doesn't have a name-brand stamped on it check the chipset. With components such as network cards the chipset defines which driver you use. If you can't find any manufacturer information on the card try looking up the FCC ID number to get hints.