Frequently Asked Linux Questions and Answers

Q: I've read that I can seriously damage my monitor by installing Linux if I don't know what I'm doing. Is this true?

A: It used to be, but no longer. If you choose one of the latest distros to install, it will handle all your hardware kindly and gently. There's no guarantee that it will recognize every single piece of hardware on your system, but then again, neither does Windows much of the time.

That said, installing drivers is easier in Windows than in Linux, so be prepared to do some digging for information on the Web when trying to get your sound card or your printer to work if it doesn't do so immediately upon installation.

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Q: Can I access my Windows drives or partitions from within Linux?

A: You'd want to do this to work on your data files using your new Linux apps — or simply to attach those files in the e-mail messages you send from within Linux.

The answer is that you can indeed access the data from your NTFS drives, but not from the moment Linux is installed.

Before you can do this, you'll need to use your Package Manager to install the NTFS drivers and then — depending on your distro — mount the NTFS partitions for use inside Linux.

When you're ready to give it a try, a Google search for "NTFS drives in linux," replacing linux with the name of your particular distro, will almost certainly lead you to the information you need.

[Editor's note: Linux can both read and write to FAT32 partitions, which some Windows computers still use.]

Q: Can I run Windows programs while in Linux?

A: Well, sorta. You need to install Wine, which is designed to let you do this. But installing and configuring Wine takes time, effort, and a fairly high degree of technical know-how. And even with help from Linux techies you'll want to try it only with older Windows programs, not Office 2007.

So the real answer is to use the native Linux programs instead, or to use Java-based applications, which Linux runs extremely well.

Q: Can I have more than one Linux distro installed on my PC at the same time?

A: Yes. But you'll need to know how to configure a third-party boot manager or GRUB to see all the distros. Once you do that, you'll be presented with a choice of all of them when you boot up.

Q: Can I get Linux off my PC?

A: Yes. Simply delete the partition on which you've installed it. But — and this is important — deleting the partition won't get rid of GRUB, the Linux boot manager. It will continue to appear when you boot your PC.

Though it's possible to delete GRUB, it's actually easier to leave it in place but to configure it to boot into Vista after a couple of seconds. If you absolutely want to delete it, you can do so by booting from your Vista DVD and using the Repair option.

Q: When I tell my new Linux friends that I'm still mostly a Windows user, they roll their eyes and sneer a lot. Can I stop them from doing this?

A: No.