If you've never tried Linux before, Slax
might help you decide. It runs off a CD, which means you can try it on the computer you have now without worrying about wiping your existing operating system or creating a new partition.
I recently downloaded the live CD to use in case I couldn't get a friend's computer to boot XP anymore, because you can boot Slax, access all the drives, and copy files to an external hard drive if your existing operating system is SNAFUed--because Slax
is its own OS, it ignores the existing software and just gives you access to the hardware.
Even though we didn't need it for that purpose, I recently needed to clone a hard drive with XP on it onto a bigger drive, and didn't have an external enclosure. So I popped Slax
into the CD drive, booted it, and used some awesome terminal commands
to clone one internal drive to the other (note that I also had to use GParted
to expand the partition afterward, which comes as its own live CD).
and give it a try if you've never seen Linux before. It works great for fixing those frightening "OMG my computer won't boot!!!11" problems, so keep a copy around.