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Windows cannot read from this disk error

I am running Windows XP Professional.  Lately, for reasons I cannot understand, I get the error message "Windows cannot read from this disk.  The disk might be corrupted, or it could be using a format that is not compatible with Windows" whenever I try to load a disk in either one of my disk drives.  They are all attached properly and recognized as running fine by the device manager.  The odd thing is I get the exact same error message when trying to load disk images on my VIRTUAL drives as well!  To add more oddity the disk drive reads a movie DVD just fine, but absolutely no data cds or dvds, and no audio cds either.  All deliver the exact same error message.  I have been at the end of my rope and tried to reinstall XP, but since the computer won't recognize the installation disk at startup it ignores my instructions to boot up from the disk drive and simply loads XP again.  I really need help.  System Restore does absolutely nothing.
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drummond13
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drummond13
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HenschelCommented:
1. Verify that the system BIOS registers that the CD Drive is there (F10, Del or F2 usually will get you into the BIOS Setup when your system is powered on).

2. Assuming that the drive is recognized, make sure that the CD/DVD Drive is first in the Boot Order section of your BIOS. Will it boot (or prompt to boot from CD) with the Windows Install Media? If not, proceed to Step 3.

3. Do you have another CD or DVD drive that you could swap out with this one? I seriously think that the drive may be defective, especially where you state that it will not boot off of the Windows Media. That fact that it will read a DVD, but not other formats leads me to believe that it is a hardware issue and for once not a Windows issue.

Let me know how you make out.
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drummond13Author Commented:
The system BIOS register its existence and yes, it has been first in the boot order.  To no avail.

I have two cdrom drives on this computer.  Both magically stopped working in this manner at the same time, which makes me think it's not the hardware.  One gives me the error message, the other simply won't read any disk.  I try to "explore" from it and it shows me an empty folder every time.  Also this wouldn't explain why I'm getting the same issue with my virtual drives, which aren't hardware.
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drummond13Author Commented:
Update:  Just to be safe I just tried running a different internal cdrm device.  EXACT same issues.  This cdrom device runs fine on another computer.

It's not the drives.  It's definitely something else.
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HenschelCommented:
So they will not boot off of the Windows Installation CD from BIOS? Meaning: 1. You put a Windows Setup CD in the drive and reboot; 2. You are prompted at startup to boot from CD

If you are not receiving the prompt with a bootable CD in the drive, Windows is not the culprit as it is not loaded at that point. BIOS is still in charge.

Let me know if that doesn't make sense or you are still not able to boot from CD
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HenschelCommented:
I just re-read your last response. If you are still not able to boot from CD after the BIOS loads, and have tried using another CD Drive to noavail, the motherboard could be the issue.

I agree that it does not explain why your Virtual Drives do not function either. Although I have no idea how they may or may not interact with hardware.

When you are trying to boot from the Windows Setup CD, do you see any activity lights on the drive that would lead us to believe it is at least thinking about it?
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drummond13Author Commented:
It does not give me a prompt to run from the cd.  I keep waiting and hoping it will, my finger ready on the spacebar, but it just blows past it.

And yes, the cdrom lights up during this section.  The green light lights up, stays lit without blinking for a few seconds, then goes off and windows boots up.
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HenschelCommented:
Assuming that you still have a flopyy drive, do you happen to have a bootable floppy with CD Drivers like a Windows 98 Boot Disk?

If not, you might try downloading one from http://www.bootdisk.com. They have images of older Win9x and current boot disks. While I personally have not tried their images, others have spoken well of them.

If you can read a data CD booting to DOS from the floppy boot disk, that would point the finger back at Windows. If it can still not access a data CD, I would be looking at Hardware.

If you can read a data CD from the boot floppy, that points back at Windows. Has anything hardware/software (updates or newly installed software) changed since this problem started? Did the problem start gradually or was it a brick wall?
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drummond13Author Commented:
I have a floppy drive, but no disks.

I cannot imagine any software changes that could have cause this.  It all happened all at once.  Plus, software changes would have been likely solved by a system restore, right?

I want to scream.
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HenschelCommented:
Software could cause it to happen all at once, although as much as I dispise M$crosoft I think it might be hardware related.

The only other thing that I can suggest for a possible solution is this:

1. Remove all but one optical drive from the system
2. Go into the BIOS Setup and remove the other optical drive
3. Confirm the boot order (although it sounds like you are good to go, but sanity checks are good things too)
4. Try to boot of the Windows Setup CD
5. Repeat until you have exhausted your combination of optical drives
This would let us try each one of the drives on its own.
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HenschelCommented:
Oh yeah, and screaming is good too. Great stress reliever, but seldom solves the original problem.

Good Luck!
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HenschelCommented:
If you still think it might be Windows, you could go to Device Manager and Delete the CD-ROM Drives. Reboot and let Windows rediscover them.

Sorry, it's not over yet.
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drummond13Author Commented:
No dice.

It gets stranger.  My virtual drives are reading some of my virtual disks just fine.  But only some.  Most don't read.  I can't isolate what makes one different from another.  They were all working fine recently.

My main real drive can actually BURN a copy of the windows recovery disc, though my virtual drives can't read the image.  Same exact error message.  
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drummond13Author Commented:
Okay, after a great deal of trial and error I completely removed service pack 2.  This fixed the issue.  Still no idea why it wasn't booting from the disk, but oh well.

I reinstalled SP2 and the issue is still gone.  I suspect a recent windows update was the cause.  I turned automatic updater off.  Never again will it be switched back on...

Thanks so much for your suggestions, Henschel.
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Computer101Commented:
PAQed with points refunded (250)

Computer101
EE Admin
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