Knoppix is not installed in the traditional sense, rather it is run "on the fly" from the CD. Most computer users have had some experience installing operating systems such as Windows, and Linux. Those installations require you to carve out partitions on the hard drive, format them, and then put the system files on those partitions. Knoppix will not write to the hard drives of your computer (unless you want it to). To run Knoppix, you simply insert the CD into your PC, then boot to the CD.
The boot screen will come up, and just hit enter to boot into Knoppix. If you have a lot of RAM (more than 512 MB), you can type in "knoppix toram," which will put the whole CD into ram. This will take several minutes, but the performance will increase dramatically. Normally, when an application is opened in Knoppix, the application is uncompressed and then loaded into memory. This takes some time, and may give users an impression that Knoppix Linux is slow. If you use the "knoppix toram" switch, then the Knoppix will seem many times faster, because the application is being uncompressed in RAM.
It is possible to actually install Knoppix to your hard drive (as many people have done). You can find instructions here . That being said, if you want to go through all that effort, you might as well install a "real" Linux distribution such as Red Hat Fedora, or Debian.
For the bored IT workers in the audience, I present to you a good way of giving your boss a heart attack. Find your company server and boot to the Knoppix CD. Then show your boss the screen, and say, "Hey boss, you know, I was looking at Linux and decided to install it on the server. Doesn't it look really cool?" You won't do any permanent damage to the server, because Knoppix runs in RAM. Of course, THG and I take no responsibility for your actions. I disavow any knowledge of this.
Knoppix is known for its wonderful hardware detection capabilities. It should detect most video and sound cards.
We tested it on three PCs: a Shuttle 41G2 with a Geforce 4 ti4200 a Micron PC with Matrox Parhelia and a Toshiba A35-S1592 Laptop. Video and sound detection was no problem. USB device detection was spotty. My SanDisk Cruzer 256 MB USB Keychain was not detected, but was detected in Knoppix version 3.2. It also did not support hotplugging (connecting the device after boot up) of USB devices, which is something that Windows users enjoy.
Knoppix was able to sense all the network cards and pull a DHCP IP Address from our router. The only minor glitch was on the Shuttle 41G2; I had to manually tell the network card to pull DHCP addresses.
Some people want to install Linux on their computers, but are not sure if their hardware will be supported. It would be unfortunate to go through a lengthy install of Red Hat or Mandrake, for example, to subsequently learn your latest and greatest hardware is undetected. Knoppix can be used as a good test of hardware compatibility, before going through an actual install. If Knoppix detects it, then the other distributions should also detect it.