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When i start my system it says A disk read error occurred. Press CTRL-ALT-DEL to operating system is windows xp

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Your hard disk is most probably failing. I hope that your important data is all backed up.

Your options are:

  1. Take the disk out and connect it to another computer, save your data, reformat, then reinstall Windows.
  2. Save your data, replace by a new disk, reinstall Windows.
  3. Try to resuscitate the hard disk by using a commercial product such as SpinRite or HDD Regenerator. (May still require reinstalling Windows if the system file in question cannot be repaired.)
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Before considering the disk dead, open up the case and ensure all cables are connected properly. Connectors can easily become loose when moving a computer around, it doesn't help that some hardware manufacturers make poor connectors to begin with. Ensure this drive is also set to Master rather than Slave.

If this doesn't yield any results, take precautionary steps like harrymc mentioned to replace your disk.

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harrymc is right — your HDD is likely on its way out. Fortunately, in my experience, it seems that you can usually recover the data before the disk dies entirely. I would recommend against continuing to use that disk for anything important.

You don't necessarily need a commercial program to rescue the disk. Often it will work to boot off of the installation CD and enter the recovery console, then run a chkdsk. This will repair bad sectors of the drive, and you should be able to boot into it long enough to recover your files to an external drive if they aren't backed up. Then start shopping for a new drive. If you need any help figuring out what kind of hard drive your computer takes, we can help you determine that.

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It really is worth it to spend the 90 or so bucks for SpinRite. To paraphrase a famous commercial: "Core 2 Quad: $150. 1TB hard drive: $120. 4 GB Ram: $160. Saving your family photos: Priceless. There are some things chkdisk can save. For everything else, there's SpinRite. – RCIX Dec 9 '09 at 11:10

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