If you want to make the switch from Windows to Debian, there are a few different options you can take to help make it a comfortable transition.
Switch to cross platform applications
Begin by installing and using free, open source and cross-platform applications in Windows, such as LibreOffice Office suite, GIMP bitmap drawing, VLC Media Player, Firefox, Thunderbird email client, Pidgin multi-protocol Instant Messaging, Audacity sound recording and editing, Scribus Desktop Publishing, Inkscape vector graphics, 7-Zip Archive manager, DIA Diagram Editor ...
Use a Live Bootable CD / USB pendrive
Use DebianLive, without installing Debian to your hard disk. You need to have a BIOS that can boot CDs or USB pendrives (see BootUsb), or use a BootFloppy (a computer would have to be extremely old for it not to boot from CD).
Both Windows and Debian on Your computer
Have both Debian and Windows installed on the same computer (known as dual booting). This way you can keep all your current data, including your Windows operating system, and choose to boot either Windows or Debian each time you start up your computer. This type of installation can be accomplished with the normal Debian installation CDs/DVDs, no special CDs/DVDs are required.
- If you have two hard disks you can make a dual split booting, this is, install each operating system in its own hard disk (i.e. the first for Debian and the second for Windows). You can also use a USB hard-disk for this.
Use a second computer to run Debian
With a second computer you can format and start afresh; no dual booting. This gives you the security that you aren't messing anything up whilst you learn. A second computer is more appropriate for server development because the server can run all the time. It isn't up and down every time you use Windows. You can also control it and test from the Windows machine.
If you have a second computer, you can use remote control software, such as VNC to access the desktop of one computer from another. An alternative is to share the monitor, keyboard and mouse with a KVM switch than it would be to find room for a second set on your desk. With a KVM switch you can switch between computers by just pressing a few keys on the keyboard. It will be like you just got up and changed chairs to sit in front of the other computer. A two port KVM switch runs from $10US to $60US. Models with more ports are also available.
If you are trying out desktop Debian, be fair in the comparison, should you use a vastly inferior machine. You probably won't overload a test server noticeably.
AptZip, a package to update your Debian computer using a Windows computer (i.e. at work).
http://migrate2linux.org/ Migration assistant