If you have not started using virtual machines yet then you are missing the boat. Virtual machines create a virtual computer with in your computer. You can configure how much memory you use and how much of your hard drive you need. This great because if you are running Windows XP then you can test out Vista while XP is still running. The virtual machines act as real computer receiving their own ip address and you can use them a servers. This helps double the power of your hardware. Virtual machines do suck up a lot of memory so you will need at least a gig of memory.
I tried out some linux distos's on Virtual PC and Vmware and found some interesting tips. The first distro I used was Damm Small Linux on Virtual PC 2007 I installed virtual PC 2007 and then created the virtual machine with all the default options with 256mb of memory. I then started the virtual machine clicked on the CD tab selecting Capture ISO image and then I watched Damm Small Linux boot. To my surprise everything worked be default, I was now running Damm Small linux virtual machine with-in my winows xp laptop, cool. I was able to connect to the network both wired and wireless. Now I tried Ubuntu and Backtrack linux. I did the same config for each machine with the same result, I could not get the mouse to work. Not sure what the problem was but I am familiar to using VM's.
Now I decided to try Vmwares Vmplayer, I soon discovered you need to create a virtual machine for the player. So through some internet research I discovered you can do this freely through the easy vmx website, type in easy vmx in Google choose the simple one. I chose the generic linux OS and then typed in the name of the ISO image, the first one was Backtrack. You need to place that ISO in the same folder that the vmx file is located. So after that was done I started my virtual machine and every thing worked except the wireless card. Now this is probably because of me being a newbie and not knowing how to install a wireless card on the VM. I had the same result with Ubuntu and Damm Small linux.
Vmware has many tools for you to create and configure your VM but the draw back is that they are not free. Virtual PC 2007 is free but it appears to have less functionality for linux. Try it out and double the power of your pc today.