You may not need to go through any of these hoops to preserve your old operating system. As you go through this book, you may find that all of your needs are met just running Linux. There are plenty of applications as slick and as capable as anything in the Windows world.
Why go back and forth when you can just go forward? In Appendix B of this book, I cover the installation process of some of the more popular distributions. When you are ready to install Linux for good, take a look there. In the meantime, and until you feel comfortable, you can always try out Linux without installing by using the WFTL Edition Knoppix CD-ROM included with this book.