You can run linux straight from a CD: NO changes made to your hard disk unless you click on "Install", and even then there's a chance to abort (though why anyone would want to is beyond me). Programs are slow to load (as they load from the CD), but you can find out if things are likely to work or not.
There are several "Live CD" distros.
is renowned for good hardware detection, kubuntu
is popular (and I like it).
Get one from http://distrowatch.com/
Download the iso
Burn it to a CD as an ISO image
(If you end up with just one big file called something.iso
on the CD, then you did it wrong).
Set your BIOS to boot from CD
Insert the CD
Plug in and turn on your scanner
Plug in your ethernet cable
Boot to linux
The KDE scanning application is called kooka
It works well. You may need the command sane-find-scanner
in a terminal to see if your scanner can be found, otherwise kooka
will probably find it.
If you choose to install linux, make a backup of any important files first. Then the installer will help you repartition your drive, and format it with a linux filesystem. An 8GB drive is small by today's standards, I'd probably prefer to use it all for linux: 512MB for swap and the rest for /