The Linux operating system has experienced huge growth in the past few years. With excellent stability. flexibility and the free price tag. People are realizing that Linux is a great alternative. Just like Windows, users would have to learn how to use Linux. Linux developers have taken note, and have come up with several ways to allow people to try Linux without getting rid of your Windows installation. Here are a couple of ways you can get a taste of what Linux has to offer.
Linux distributions like Ubuntu offer a feature called Live CD. Live CD allows you to boot off of the install CD instead of your hard drive. All you have to do is burn the CD, keep it in your CD drive when booting your computer and press the option to boot from CD. Now each computer is different so consult your PC manufacture for instructions to boot from CD. Once booted you will be able to use almost all of the functionality of the Linux distribution that you have on CD without affecting your Windows installation. There are two drawbacks: You can not save your settings once you turn off your computer and the operating system tend to run slow because CD drives access data slower than hard drives. If you like what you see you can install to your hard drive from the live CD. Get more on Ubuntu's website.
Wubi is great. What Wubi does is creates a virtual hard drive in one folder stored on your Windows partition. Then Wubi gives you the option to boot into Windows or Linux upon booting by changing your boot record. Installation is easy. Just download the install file. Select the install path and what install of Ubuntu you would like. That's it. Once complete you will have the option to boot into Linux or Windows. If you want to remove Linux just go to add / remove programs and uninstall Wubi. That's it. No mess. There is a small risk of damage to your boot record but I have never seen it. Check out Wubi by doing a Google search.
Virtualbox is really cool. Virtualbox is a piece of software that you can install in Windows and Linux that will allow you to emulate another operating system while running another. For example, if you use Windows you can install Virtualbox and install Ubuntu then run Ubuntu in a small window or full screen while being able to use everything in Windows. I hope that makes sense. The only drawback Virtualbox has is it runs slow because it has to share system resources with your host operating system. So you will not be playing any games while running Virtualbox. If you just want to learn this is a great solution. Once you are done you can close up Virtualbox to free up system resources. For more information check out VirtualBox's website.
That's it! You have three free ways to get your feet wet with Linux. If you like Linux give it an install as your main operating system. There are too many things to explore with Linux to fit in one article. I recommend trying out Ubuntu.