Originally Posted by jsnbtlr
Your best bet is to go to Distro Watch and download the most popular Distro's and install them into a virtual environment and play with each one. Once you find 'the one' you can do a dual boot install next to Windows. I personally don't like to dual boot because I find myself never using one of the installs because it's too much trouble to reboot when I want to switch the OS. Virtual environments (If you have the resources) and KVM's connecting multiple boxes are the way to go imho.
That provides some options there!
The reference to ubuntu and Knoppix however is seeing the crossplatform capability to access any MS partition or drive while booted in one of those.
On any vm setup you lose access to most if not all internal devices however due to a limited environment. The XP mode run on the new Virtual PC for 7 allows access to all drives including an external hard drive or usb flash drive while Having XP, Vista, or 7 running on a vhd sees only the dvd used for the installation and a floppy drive which most wouldn't even have at this point.
Having tried 7 out on a flash drive you can't even read a disk in the dvd drive! All you see when clicking on the icon for that is the root of the 7 dvd used for installing 7 on a vhd there using SUN's Portable Virtual Box.