I'd also suggest experimenting with "Live USB with Persistence" to get a good feel for various versions - I generally use 4GB thumb drives. I started using the Pendrive installer, which is very intuitive and never tried any other:http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal- ... -as-1-2-3/
Just scroll down its menu to find the Mint version that matches whichever ISO you've downloaded, and slide Persistence setting to use all the USB space above 1.5GB. Persistence will save your settings between reboots, otherwise they disappear.
My experience trying out Live USB over a year or so has been that the USB installations are great to get a trial run but after a month or two all go wonky
, starting to demand non-existent passwords or failing to find the hard drive. There is a method to do a "regular install" onto a USB drive instead, but be very careful that you don't install GRUB onto the hard drive doing that - it can't easily removed.
Finally, after booting from USB, be aware you'll have to manually "mount" the hard drive, easily by opening the file manager, locating and opening it. Once that's done, the HDD acts like an ordinary external drive.
I've found Mint 11 enjoyable and a pretty OS to look at.
New to Linux. Installed Lubuntu 10.10 on Acer netbook, and experimenting with Mint 13 and other distros on Dell laptop with peripherals (Persistent Live USB).