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HI, you can make unpartitioned space on your hard drive to setup the linux
you can make your machine dual boot or you VMware as said before
In case of simulation tools running like Mentor tools or Cadence tools VMware is not preferred as it needs large space from the Ram
I think Vmware is your best choice, I have installed RHEL as4,Calibre,Hspice,IC5141,Soc42 in, all of the software work very well, and what's more I relly like it is that if you upgrade your hardware, you don't have to change anything. As my test, the performance of software running in Vmware is about 80% of running in real system.