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This is a >3 year-old system: HP a1640n. There have been no issues with it in the past. I added a video card 2 years ago, and more memory 1 year ago, both without issues. There haven't been any recent hardware changes. I did install Win7 in Oct., but there were no issues with that either.

I used the computer fine two nights ago, and turned it off. Yesterday, I tried to turn it on, and got the error:

"A Disk Read Error Occurred. Press CTRL ALT DEL to restart"

So I restart, see the initial start screen (HP) and enter the BIOS. The hard drive and dvd drive appear to be listed, but the names are gibberish text.

I tried putting a Windows disk in the dvd drive, and continued with the boot, but the disk did not get recognized. Even though the BIOS was set to check for optical media before the hard drive. Back to the error screen.

If the computer would boot from a cd or dvd, I would just figure the hard drive needed replacing. But both being problematic worries me.

Is this a matter of replacing both the hard drive and dvd drive, or might it be an indication of a bigger problem?

Thanks for any advice.

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Thanks for the suggestions so far. I've opened the case, cleaned it out w/ compressed air, and disconnected and re-connected the various plugs inside. I even re-seated the memory chips and the graphics card. As a result, the BIOS seems normal now - the drive names are no longer gibberish, and are what I expected them to be. Also, I'm able to boot a Win7 dvd - the same one I mentioned before. But still no joy for the HDD. I'll add that the HD and DVD drives use the Sata interface, not IDE. – Grant Palin Jan 22 '10 at 4:06
Given that the BIOS is recognizing the HDD, yet the system will not boot off the same HDD, I am led to believe the issue is that the HDD needs replacing. I picked up a new drive, and will try installing it this evening. – Grant Palin Jan 22 '10 at 21:33
Here‌​'s a similar thread with the problem -- which is most probably solved for you now. I'm adding it here as for further reference for those looking for help. – Rubens Dec 30 '13 at 20:56
up vote 0 down vote accepted

My first thought when you said this is simply that the hard drive has died.

You also said you had a problem with booting from optical drive. Based on the fact that you have upgraded to Windows 7, I take it that you know how to do this properly. I would double check and just make sure that it is set correctly and the disk is bootable.

Apart from that, I have seen power surges or similar take out single chips that make it hard to track down faults. If the machine is over 3 years old, it is possible that it is using a IDE optical and hard drive, so a failure in a controller chip could take out both.

However, I don't want to scare you, you should start by making sure that the BIOS recognises both the optical and hard drive, then try booting a different disk to rule that out.

If you can boot - it means that your boot cd/dvd is bad. If not, then it is possible of either a bad coincidence and the optical drive is bad or your motherboard is.

The above all only deals with the optical drive, whether you fix it or not, I think the hard drive is bad or has a boot problem. You may have luck formatting/repairing/reinstalling on it or it could be a physical problem requiring a new one... or again, lastly, it could be the motherboard.

It is really hard to know, but I hope this has covered everything.

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Thanks for all the tips. This response is the closest to my situation, so it gets the check mark. The issue was indeed the HDD - I swapped it for a new one, and was able to install Windows on it - I'm not sure what the issue was with the DVD drive, perhaps the cleaning or reseating connections fixed that up. It turned out I also needed to replace the video card, so this turned into an expensive repair, but the computer is working again. – Grant Palin Jan 24 '10 at 2:58

this comes fom either the FORMS virus or the NOINT virus. they are difficult to remove and corrupt every disk and cd that comes in contact with your computer. it makes a hidden partition that will not be deleted by formatting, you can see it and zero it out by running disk edit (DE.exe). but you will usually reinstall it with your reinstall because it is hidden in your cd's and disks

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first of all, i'd blow any dust out of the system (preferably with canned air).

then re-seat all addon cards, memory modules and cable connectors.

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Is the bios working properly, other than the garbled device names? That would lead me to believe that it's a cable or a problem with the controller.

Although I have had both a HDD and a DVD drive fail within days, if both failed at the same time I'd guess something else. You could always try using the HDD or DVD in another computer to see if they're really toast.

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I had this problem (unbootable drives, corrupted BIOS names) while building a system a while back. Try using different IDE and/or SATA cables and slots, which fixed it for me (I assume you've already done the plug it out and back in thing as you've opened up that PC before). If that doesn't help, you could be looking at replacing the motherboard.

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