Im' thinking about formatting my HD and reinstalling with Ubuntu instead. However I'm concerned about losing internet access. I currently use XP and connect to the net via a router which I can access by typing its IP address into my browser. Will there be any compatibility issues with Ubuntu doing the same? Do i need an ubuntu compatible router or something, or any special software to setup internet access using Ubuntu?
Other answers have addressed your options while installing and the issue of Ubuntu accessing the Internet. The key points are that it's a good idea to test Ubuntu first on the live CD/DVD/USB (same as what you use to install from), and that your options are explained in various resources that explain how to install it, like this.
I'd like to address the question about whether or not you can connect to your router's setup page and configure it, from Ubuntu.
You can access your router's setup page. You do not need a special, compatible router.
This is just a web page--the router is itself a machine on your network, and it is running a web server. Any machine that can browse the web can access this.
Some devices are configured by plugging them into a computer with a USB cable. Often Windows-only software is necessary to perform this configuration, and this is usually not possible with Ubuntu. Some routers provide this as one way to configure them. But even if your router has a USB port, you don't have to use that to configure it.
If your router lets you connect to it in a web browser on Windows, you can do the same thing in Ubuntu.
It's possible to design a web page that can only be used by clients on certain operating systems. But routers don't have that sort of client-side active content. Their setup pages are relatively simple, as web pages go. The authentication that is performed is done through universal web protocols. You're good.
You should be aware, though, that being able to connect to the router is not actually the same thing as being able to connect to the Internet through it.
When you access the Internet through your router, your router's web-based setup page is not actually being used. You can use it to change settings that affect (or even disable and enable) your Internet connection. But when you open a web page other than your router's setup page (and I'm specifically thinking of page whose web server is in a remote location on the Internet), or update Ubuntu, or use instant messaging or bittorrent, or play an online game... the data that's transmitted and received does not go through the router's web page. It goes through the router, but the web page is just there for configuration.
Ubuntu, does not, usually have problems related to internet access, unless something is broken during installation or afterwards. And yes, please refer to this guide before you proceed with the installation. You should be able to access internet without purchasing a new router or any other special software, the drivers and applications are loaded into the default iso image. Hope this helps; post, if you have any problems.
you don't have to format your drive before trying to install Ubuntu, you can even just try Ubuntu without installing or removing anything thus you can check if everything is working. I recommend the following installation guide: http://www.ubuntu.com/download/help/install-desktop-long-term-support
If you can't access the internet when trying Ubuntu then you can search for answers to the problem(s) you encounter or edit your question explaining the details and hopefully you will be helped.
Only problem I had with Internet access was with Nokia USB Modem for GSM connection. That was because it has memory slot in it which is mounted first (like Windows usually do). Everything I had to do was to unmount Nokia USB Modem and then it starts to act like a modem.
Any change You need to do for internet access is situated under menu connection settings (little icon of network type in upper right corner). That's the easiest way of managing that.
I have put ubuntu on about 10 different desktop's and laptop's. i have only had a problem with wireless after install once. The answer was to connect with an ethernet cord to the router itself and install the restricted drivers. similar to when you have to install the drivers for video cards. it should pop up in the upper right corner after install and ethernet connection. hope this is useful to you.