Yes, it can be done.
Make sure you have already backed up anything on your old drive that you want and then go to Pendrivelinux.com and follow one of their step by step methods. I recommend Linix Mint as a good version to use.
Now running Linux mint on the little netbook. Seems pretty good. Haven't worked out the wireless yet.
I have been using Linux since the late 90s (the dark ages). Things are a lot easier to set up now then they used to be.
The first question is; do you want to "dual-boot"? On a dual boot machine can switch between Linux and Windows (and other operating systems) at will (you have to restart the machine each time). I am curious if you did this on your laptop?