Question: I'm thinking about putting Linux on my Computer but I want to keep my operating system I have now which is xp-home. My question is how do I go about making my hard Drive a multiple operating system boot in which I have the choice of what operating system to boot from?
Alternative One - Most versions of Linux come with a partitioning tool that will allow you to partition your hard drive to make space for Linux without having to wipe the drive as you would if you used the Windows partitioning tool FDISK.
Linux also comes with one or more boot managers that can be installed that will allow you to select your operating system at boot time.
You should see questions come up asking you about these tasks during the Linux install.
I recommend backing up your data on Windows before starting the Linux install just in case something goes wrong.
Alternative two - You can run Linux in a virtual machine under Windows giving you access to both operating systems on the screen at the same time. To do this simply download and install Windows Virtual PC (for Windows 7) or Virtual PC 2007 (for Vista and XP) as an application on your Windows desktop. That basically allows you to have one or more virtual computers that exist only within that application. You can then install Linux into one of those virtual computers. This will allow you to run Linux at any time without first having to close Windows and will even allow you to easily swap back and forth between the two.
The only drawback to this approach is that your computer hardware must have sufficient capacity to be able to run multiple operating systems at the same time.
Alternative three - most Linux operating systems today have what is known as a "live" version available. This is either available as a separate disk or is sometimes used as a part of the actual install process where the install is set up in such a way that you must already have Linux running in order to commence the install.
Basically a "live" disk is one where you can simply place the disk into an appropriate DVD or BluRay drive in your computer and boot Linux from there without even having to install the operating system onto your hard drive.
This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.