What should i do when my computer reads disk read error upon booting?

What should i do when my computer reads disk read error upon booting? i restarted my computer running windows 7 in order to install windows XP with the CD inside and afterwards upon rebooting my computer shows :'Disk read err r,press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart'. The hard drive is a 2008 seagate 80GB Hard drive with important info on it. Help!!
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  1. What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence? Time to get a new fence!

    Were I to have your issue, I would get a new harddrive (well, grab one of the 14 I have hanging around), attach it to the computer, boot something like PartedMagic and clone the old drive to the new one. That has two advantages
    1) If the problem was the hardware on the old drive, you just boot the new one and go on.
    2) Even if the problem was something else, now you have a backup.

    The second thing to do (some people will say first) is to determine the maker of the drive, download the diagnostics from the mfg site, and run the hardware diagnostics to determine if the hardware is failing.

    The third is to run chkdsk or a third-party tool to see if the problem is something like filesystem corruption.

    I take it back. The first thing, if this is a desktop machine, is to ensure that all of the cables are seated properly. I had a cable work loose, once.
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