I'll bite. I use Linux.
Is it reversible?
Yes, if you're careful. Linux (oh, okay, GNU/Linux) is an operating system, of course, which means that it can take Windows' place if you want it to. Of course, it sounds like you don't want to, so you need to make that clear to the installer when you do it. If you make sure you don't overwrite your Windows partitions, it's totally reversible - it's a matter of restoring the Windows boot loader and deleting the Linux partitions.
I believe some distros will assume you want to delete everything on the hard drive if you opt for one of the basic install options, so make sure you read up on the install process first and opt for a custom installation if necessary.
Will you be able to access all my existing stuff?
No, I won't be able to access all your existing stuff.
Oops, sorry, that was a typo by Antiriad.
Let me read that again...
Yes, you'll be able to access your existing stuff in almost all cases. There are caveats, though:
Can I dual-boot?
- If you're using FAT32 as your filesystem, you have no problems - Linux can read and write in FAT32 natively.
- If you're using NTFS as your filesystem (which you probably are if you're using Windows XP), then you should be aware that while read-only support seems to work absolutely fine, read-write support is experimental, which means it could potentially screw up your data, although it's not likely to happen. Out of the box, read-write support is normally disabled for that reason, which means you'll be able to access your data, but not be able to write back to that partition. I'm not sure how well encrypted files work with it because I haven't seen anything about it.
You can get around this using something like Captive, which gives you full read-write support for NTFS partitions by using Microsoft's own drivers. For that reason, you'll need a copy of an NT-based OS (NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista), although this won't be a problem for many people, given the pervasiveness of Windows.
- USB functionality is very usable, but as with all hardware it might depend on whether there are drivers available for it. You can be fairly sure that your USB thumb drive will work out the box, for example, but more esosteric hardware might be a problem. The easiest way is to try it and find out.
Yes, if you haven't overwritten your Windows partitions (obviously). You need to use a special bootloader like LILO or GRUB to do it. Most distros have graphical interfaces to help you set them up.
Who uses Linux?
Anyone ele?... Um, anyone?...
Okay, okay, I'm joking. More and more people are starting to use Linux; it's a good choice in my opinion. You'll need to be prepared for some changes though. Linux isn't Windows, and will never be Windows. If you want a taste of Linux before installing, download the excellent Cygwin
, which gives you a Linux-like environment in Windows. Mostly in Cygwin you interact with the command line, which in my opinion is the best place to start. You can get KDE and GNOME for Cygwin too, though.
So, in short, the answers to your questions can be summed up as: "Probably. Depends on the distro and the install."
Hope that helps.