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Just running it will not cause any changes to your harddrive.

it does contain utilities that could alter your drive, but you specifically have to run them, and with root privledges. For example knoppix contains a program call qtparted, it is similar to partition magic. So long as you do not run it, it will not cause changes

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Knoppix is a great live linux CD. It also has a great diagnostic feature. That is, once you boot Knoppix and are running Linux the CD will identify all of your hardware for you (it has wonderful hardware detection) and then you'll know if all of your computer components are Linux ready in case you wish to install Linux on your HD.

Knoppix is a good way to safely get your feet wet with Linux without messing up your Windows install as shanenin said.

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