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The error I have on boot is:

A disk read error occurred
Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart

I can view all the files on the hard drive booting off an Ubuntu CD, but I can't boot into the version of Windows XP that is installed onto the HD. This is the third our forth time this has happened on two different hard drives. Each time, I've reformatted and reinstalled Windows and everything is fine for a few weeks until the error occurs again.

What might be causing this problem, and more importantly what are some things I can try to fix it? I'm tired of reinstalling Windows! Since all the files appear to be intact, I've heard that maybe I can just rewrite the MBR, fix the partition table or install GRUB instead of reinstalling Windows. Any other ideas of things to try?

More Details

The previous HD on this laptop was getting SMART errors, so I upgraded to a new internal HD. Everything went fine until this error occurred. Figuring it was a fluke, I just reinstalled Windows, but then it occurred again. After the third time, I figured the HD was broken so I bought a new hard drive. Unfortunately, we live in Brazil and the only laptop HD I could find was exactly the same model that had failed before. Recently the second HD stopped booting with the same message. Now that two different HDs have failed, I'm starting to think it isn't the HD that is the problem.

Neither HD ever reported any errors when running CHKDSK nor in the HD self test option in the BIOS.

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I'm also going to lean towards the MBR like PSU_Kardi suggests.

  1. Assuming you have a Windows XP Installation Disk, insert it and press any key to boot at the prompt.

  2. After it has finished loading all the installation files, press r to access the Recovery Console.

  3. When the console loads, type fixmbr. This will re-write your master boot record and temporarily solve your problem.

It probably will not keep it from happening again, but at least you won't have to keep reinstalling windows.

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Whenever I have a hard drive issue, I always first turn to SpinRite. It will try to recover those bad sectors if possible. It sounds like the hard drive controller may be bad. That requires a motherboard swap which I would not recommend due to cost. While Spinrite is expensive, they do have a good return policy in case it doesn't work and it may allow you to limp along until you can buy another machine. Using it in maintenance mode, it should allow you to catch corrupted sectors.

Hope that helps.

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If you can see all the files on another machine and can still access them, perhaps your MBR is jacked up.

Like you said in your More Details I'm leaning towards the MBR.

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