The many ways to Install Linux(from easiest to most complex)
1. Live Linux CD/DVDs
Before you ever install a Linux distribution, you should try out the one you are interested in by running it without changing anything on your hard drive.
To do this, you computer must have its BIOS set to boot CD/DVD before the HARD DRIVE, otherwise, the CD/DVD will not boot and you will see your regular operating system.
When a computer starts it must read the BIOS file to understand what order and how the computer is set up. This happens very fast just after you turn the computer on. You can enter the BIOS by pressing a key at start up. The key you press could be the del (delete) key or the Esc (escape) key or the F2 key. The key to press shows up on the screen when you turn on the computer.
You will fimd a BOOT section where you can change the order for boot up. Just put the CD/DVD drive before the hard drive. This is always the best way to do it. If you have a floppy drive set that after the CD and before the hard drive also.
F10 and YES usually saves the configuration for the BIOS and the next time you run the BIOS the order will run the CD/DVD first and the live Linux distro will start up.
2. Run Linux in a Virtual Machine (VM)
There are a number of Virtual Machines out there now. Some are FREE like VirtualBox and Qemu. I prefer VirtualBox (FREE DOWNLOAD) there is a Linux version and a MS Windows version.
Using a Virtual Machine (VM) you can do a VIRTUAL INSTALL of most operating systems (Linux and Windows) without changing the Operating System (OS) on your machine. The only draw-backs may be that all of the hardware (printers, scanners, some sound cards) may not work. But the good news is it is safe and can be used to install a variety of Operating Systems (OS) without worry. You can use the Internet without peril from within this Virtual OS.
Communication between your main OS and the virtual one may be limited. But usually you can save to some device (hard drive, network drive) on the VM.
3. Linux only Computer
You can set up a computer with Linux only by allowing the installation to take over the entire hard drive. This is the easiest way to install Linux.
If you have a second older computer then this might be a way to get started.
4. DUAL BOOTING
Preferable to the above way of installing Linux, I recommend putting Linux on your Windows system - called DUAL BOOTING. This means you have a choice when you BOOT your computer; ie. use Linux or Windows.
This is not difficult to set up but one has to understand a little about how hard drives are set up (partitioned). Most Linux distributions allow you to do this during installation.
This method makes things easier in the long run and can be used to recover your Windows system 'when' it crashes.
As a person gets more proficient, they can also have multiple Linux distributions on their computer. And they can also have Microsoft Windows on the same computer. The start-up menu will just have more options.