Hmm... Why would anyone assume Linux will run their existing software? You're running Windows, right? It stands to reason you have Windows software. If you want to know if it will run on Linux, your first stop should be http://winehq.org/
. There is a database of Windows programs there with information about how well it will work on Linux. Chances are, you're not the first one to try running your software on Linux. You should be able to find info about what it takes to get individual programs to run properly, if default settings are insufficient. But, Windows software is not designed to run on Linux, and Linux is not designed to run Windows software. Your best bet is to find native replacements for the software you use on Windows. Wine, in my opinion, is a stop-gap measure at best while transitioning from Windows to Linux. Ultimately, if you are going to run Linux, you should be running Linux software.
Your hardware is a separate issue. Try running a live CD/DVD version of Linux on it to find out if it will work. Different distributions have support for different hardware. If you don't want to tweak settings on a distribution that doesn't support your hardware in its default configuration, just try a different distribution.
What concerns me most about your post is that you say you have been intending to break away from Windows for ten years, yet you have never used Linux. There have been simple ways to try Linux available for several years now. Live CD's do not require you to install anything on your computer to try it out. If you are serious about switching, why have you not done anything about it before? Maybe a better question is, why do you want to switch to Linux? What are you hoping to gain by it? I can't help but wonder if you think that Linux is a clone of Windows and that you think it should run your Windows software. You did pose your question on the assumption that Linux will run your Windows software. It is not a clone of Windows, but of Unix, and it is not designed with Windows compatibility in mind. So, if your belief is that it will be a cheaper version of Windows, forget it. If that's the case, you should rethink your motivation for switching.
There are many good reasons to use Linux, but perhaps you are coming at it from the wrong angle.