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Linux ISO Images
Free distributions of Linux are usually available to download as ISO images. An ISO image is an image of a CD-ROM disk saved in ISO-9660 format. It is an exact copy of a disk stored as a file. After downloading, the user typically burns the image to CD. ISO images are typically 640MB in size. The end user will have to burn this image to a CD-ROM. This is not done by simply burning the file to a CD-ROM. You need to use software that recognizes the ISO file as a disk image and burns it as such. The CD-RW recording capability that is built into Windows XP does not support the creation of an ISO-9660 formatted image.
ISO CD Burning Software
The likelihood is high that your PC does not have the capability to recognize and burn ISO images correctly to CD-ROM or DVD. As was previously mentioned, this is not a standard capability of Windows XP. Many commonly used programs for CD burning such as MUSICMATCH, RealPlayer, or the Windows Media Player also do not have this capability. ROXIO EasyCD Creator does have the capability to burn ISO images to CD correctly.
Free ISO CD Burning Software
There are also several good free CD burning software packages that will also accomplish the task of burning an ISO image to CD-ROM and/or DVD correctly. These include:
Buy the Book and Avoid the Burning
One way to avoid the whole ISO burning process is to purchase a book on you favorite distribution. Most books also include a CD/DVD with the Linux distribution on it. All of the following have installation CDs and/or DVDs.
Books with Multiple Distributions
Debian GNU/Linux Books
SUSE LINUX Books