Yes, that is generally considered the better way to run a Linux distro either in RAM or as an install method. Use 'Rufus' by Akeo software to create a bootable USB. Rufus only does one job, but does it very well - it takes an ISO of an OS and turns into a bootable USB stick !
Even if you decide you want to install the Linux distro of your choice onto one of these hard drives you are best to let it boot from the USB and, once you get to the desktop, then click on the install button. When installing you are presented with several choices of which one is 'Use the whole disk'. If you have no intention of dual booting on the drive select this option.
One quirk of Linux, which makes it so useful as a servicing tool, is that, while the Windows OS cannot 'see' a Linux partition, Linux can read a Windows partition and manipulate the files stored on it thus allowing you, for example, to recover data before doing a major Windows repair.
I am not pretending that, as your OS, Linux is entirely user friendly or intuitive. You will find a topic of mine in the Linux section about how it took me a week and a half to get a laptop to dual boot. Some distros, Mint for example, are much more user friendly than others in that they work in the GUI in a manner much the same as Windows but you will still find yurself needing to get some familiarity with 'Terminal', the command line function. I make no pretense to be an expert but I like Linux and it is my intention to move to it as my primary OS. I haven't got there yet !