Hi chris_j11. I have been using Puppy for about 2 years. It's a great little OS.
Here's how to get Puppy on your PC . It's pretty easy.
First things first. You need to look in your BIOS and make sure that the boot order is set to boot from the CD first. Look on your Acer splash screen when the PC boots up, it should tell you which F key you need to press to get into what is usually referred to as Setup, (F10, F2 are typical options). Once you do that, you are ready to go.
Download the latest Puppy from here:
Choose this file: Puppy-4.1.2-k184.108.40.206-seamonkey.iso
Once downloaded you can download this free burning program to burn it to CD if you don't have one:
If you use ImgBurn, simply load a blank CD into your CD drive, open ImgBurn and choose Write Image File to Disk, (choose the Puppy image file to save to CD). PS, you can use a good PC to do this if your PC with the bad HD isn't up to the task.
Once it's done, reboot your PC with the Puppy CD in it and the CD will load Puppy into RAM.
OK, so you are booting for the first time with the CD in the drive. You will be asked four questions. Just press enter at each of the four questions. Poof! Puppy loads. Click on a program (note: everything is single click) and watch how fast an OS in RAM loads a program. I guarantee you will be amazed. Another fun thing; remove the CD from the drive. You don't need it because the OS is in RAM.
You can load a blank CD and write stuff to it using Menu\Multimedia\BurnISOtoCD. Try this, too; at the bottom left hand corner, you can see your HD, usually labeled sda1 or something. Click on it. You can see all your windows files. Cool huh?
A PC isn't a PC unless it can connect to the Internet.
Here's how to connect Puppy to the Internet. Click on the icon labeled "Connect". A window will open. Choose the option "Internet by Network or Wireless LAN", (before you do this, insure your network cable or your wireless router is connected).
If you are using a network cable:
1) click on the "eth0" button
2) Click on the "Auto DHCP" button. If it's successful, click on OK, then click on the "Done" button.
3) Close any other windows that may pop up.
4) Click on the "Browse" icon and you will be on the Internet
If you are using wireless:
1) Click on the Wlan0 button
2) Click on the "Wireless" button
3) At this point you will have to play around, (I don't know your setup), but 10 minutes of fooling around will likely get you onto your wireless network.
To get your pen drive installed, just plug it in. After a few seconds you should see a new icon appear in the bottom left-hand corner, (sdb1 or something like that). Click on it once to "mount" it. To "unmount" it, click on the "Mount" icon on the desktop and choose the tab "usbdrv" and unmount it. It works the same for any media, like your HD, CD drive, etc. Don't just pull it out, always use mount or unmount or you might lose data.
When you shut down, you will be presented with the following choices:
Save to File
Save to CD
Do not Save
Choose Do not Save for now. You don't want to save anything until you get familiar with the OS.
Save to CD is for saving to a re-writable CD.
Save to file will put a small file on your HD. This is OK, and Puppy will boot WAY faster, but explore the other options for awhile before you commit to saving this file on your unreliable HD.
A better option, once you are familiar with the OS, is under Menu\Setup\Puppy Universal Installer. Check out the Puppy web page for more info on this really cool way to use Puppy, (for example, you can install it to a pen drive like you wanted to, using Puppy Universal Installer, or a HD, or CD, etc).
My favorite thing about Puppy is that if you never use the Save to File option, nothing ever gets saved to your PC, because your HD is not mounted by default, so you can surf anywhere and never have to worry about anything that might plant itself on the PC. Once you turn it off the RAM evaporates not only the session, but the whole OS! Me, I use Puppy on a PC that has no personal info on it anyway, so that makes it pretty secure and private.
Hope this helps you get Puppy installed with a minimum of fuss, Chris.