Disk read error occurs when laptop powered on

spamsoft used Ask the Experts™
Hi there,

I have been experiencing problems with one of my older laptops - a Dell Latitude running Windows XP. It worked fine for years and then started experiencing this issue.

When I turn it on, the screen sometimes reads "Disk read error occurred press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart." After this point, nothing happens and it does not boot up. In most cases, I have to press Ctrl + Alt + Del or power on/off multiple times before the Windows boot process kicks in?

I was wondering what might have caused this problem? I don't think its got anything to do with the jumper settings for my system drives (ie. setting my HDD to Master and DVD to Slave) - as this is a pre-built laptop by Dell, I can't see how this problem can have anything to do with how the cables have been connected (or even how the BIOS is configured in respect of boot order). In addition, the laptop has worked fine for years with no problem!

Do you think that it could be to do with the boot sector of the HDD being damaged in some way? If not, then what else could it be?
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run this command from command prompt: chkdsk c: /f , where c: is for drive later and continue for other drive also.
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It could be that your drive is nearing the end of its life, for example, perhaps the bearings are failing or (if its a liquid bearing) have leaked, and the disk is failing to spin up to speed before the boot process begins.

what is the inside address of core switch? ?
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Try to enter system setup by repeatedly pressing on F2 as you turn on your computer.
Reset your system BIOS.. refer to your user manual.. for phoenix bios you have to press F9 then select yes to restore defaults. then press F10 to save and exit.. for some dell systems I think you need to press on F5.. If this does not work then follow steps below.. ;)

boot to windows recovery console and try to run chkdsk c: /f /r
if nogo then back to recovery console and run fixboot
if nogo again back to recovery console and run fixboot
if nogo try to reinstall your operating system...

NOTE: to boot up to recovery console, first turn computer on then repeatedly tap F12 to ge into the boot menu, insert your restore disc then select the option CD/DVD or similar.. press enter then enter again when you see a prompt saying "press any key to boot from cd" it should boot to the operating system disc Press R for the option to start recovery console press R.. its gonna ask for administrator password just leave it blank then press enter otherwise type in your admin password. you'll get into the C prompt.. thats the recovery console.. thanks! goodluk!

I think ifckwan posted to the wrong thread!

Stop trying to boot your machine!  Based on your description of the problem, I believe KCTS is correct, your drive is starting to fail.  Hard drives have an expected lifespan of about four-to-five years.  After that, they can quit at any time.  Yours is giving you notice, which is actually a benefit, because you might get lucky enough to save your data before it goes completely (and it will very soon).

The error you are getting is telling you that the computer cannot talk properly to the hard drive.  While it is possible that agentJOMZKI's advice will work, I wouldn't run a chkdsk until you do a full backup of your data, if that's possible.  The best way to do that, if you can, is to remove the drive from the laptop and put it into a USB enclosure, connect it to another PC and save everything you can.  Don't wait to do this, since your drive has made it clear (at least to me) that it is going to stop working.

The reason I say not to run chkdsk first is that chkdsk can be destructive to data.  If chkdsk finds a problem on the disk, it will block the drive from accessing the area of the disk it thinks is bad.  Any data there is lost.

Again, DO NOT WAIT to save your data (if you don't already have a complete and current backup).

As for the future of your laptop, if you want to continue to use it, you are going to have to replace that hard drive and reload Windows and your applications.  Whether the problem causing the error is a hardware (bad spots on the disk surface or something going in the electronics or mechanical works) or software (data not being written or read properly to the platters), the drive is most likely in its last stages of life.


Hi there,

Thank you for your help so far.

KCTS and splait - I have entertained what you suggested as a possibility for some time. However, I'll like to falsify other possibilities to ensure that this is the case! As it happens, I backed up all the data on the drive a while back by moving into on to a file server in case there was a HDD failure.

agentJOMZKI and ashraf882 - I've run chkdsk c: /f by scheduling it on system startup. It passed through the first stages fine - file verification and index verification. It then appeared to run through the final stages pretty quickly and issued an on-screen report before closing and allowing Windows to bootup. I actually didn't get chance to see if it had identified any errors and blocked access/ fixed errors.

I've also tried running the Recover Console from the Installation CD. However, when I start the system, there is no message reading 'press any key to boot from this disk.' To deal with this, I went to the BIOS and placed the DVD drive to the top the boot order list - the laptop would still not boot from the DVD on the system powering up. I then went back to the BIOS again and made the DVD the only active boot device (disabled the HDD) - this still failed to initiate the Windows CD and I was met with a message that stated something along the lines of 'No boot device recognised.....' This is despite the DVD drive showing up in the BIOS as a recognised peripheral.

Is the issue with the laptop not seeing the DVD drive connected with the problem with the HDD not wanting to boot up Windows? Does anybody have any further suggestions?


Your laptop having problem.The main board of your laptop is having problem of IDE & sata ports.This may they lose the connection between HDD to motherboard & DVD to mother board.Please check with dell.



Tushar Kaskhedikar

You could have two problems. One with the HD and the other with the DVD drive.
You need to test your DVD drive. It could be detected by the BIOS but it may not be able to read data  from a CDROM.
I would try cleaning the DVD drive head and retest.
Also can you test the DVD drive on another machine just to confirm its working fine.
1) Turn on the computer and hit F12 on Dell's logo.
2) Chose "Diagnostic" ou "Hard Drive Diagnostic" depending the model of your Latitude notebook.
3) Wait for the results on screen, probably you'll have a error message with a code. Post it here so we can check if the HDD is dammaged.


Hi there,

Cheers for your further suggestions. I have left the laptop off for a few days and have just powered it up - based on past behaviour, it was more likely to suffer this issue when its not beign used constantly.

fernandorgs - pressing the F12 key on my Latitude simply takes me to the boot order menu - there was no mention of any 'diagnostics' option.

asidu - I can't test this drive on another machine, as it is custom-made for the Dell range of Latitude laptops. However, I will try and find the older drive that I used previously (I upgraded my Dell Latitude's drive from a CD-RW to a DVD-RW some time ago.

kaskhedikar_tushar - I actually looked at these pages some time ago. I don't think this issue has been provoked by a problem with hardware jumper settings - as the first article suggests in places. This is given that this is a factory-built laptop and I have never messed with the internal components. Besides this suggestion, is there anything else that could cause a problem with the HDD and DVD connecting to the mainboard?

From now on - I'll try to get a DVD or CD drive working in my Dell Latitude.  I'll then run the Dell Resource CD to try and diagnose the problem. This will allow me to proceed with checking to see if this is a hardware or software issue.

In my view, I believe that this is more likely to be a hardware issue with the HDD, esp. as this problem is intermittent - sometimes it shows up on power-on and sometimes it doesn't.


Dell didn't have any custom-made drives for their Latitudes that I know of, and I've been reselling their systems for 8 years.  Latitudes are my laptop of choice for my clients, and I have replaced a few drives over that period.  They are all 2.5" drives.

I still strongly recommend what I said in my first post - replace it.

Sorry!  I thought you were talking about HDDs, but I guess you meant the CD/DVD drive.


I have awarded the most points to the solution suggesting that this was the product of a hardware issue (splait). Whilst I cannot guarantee that this diagnosis is definitely true, it seems to be the most likely scenario given the behaviour of the laptop in question.

I have also given some points to another solution (AgentJOMZKI) that claimed that this issue was the product of a software issue. The steps provided in this example were relevant in helping to diagnose what was at fault and could be used by somebody with a similar hard drive issue. In addiiton, in other cases this problem could be linked to software issues.

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