Urgent: Disk read error has occurred, press ctrl alt delete to restart

Okay, so here's what's up. I tried to search a bit for this topic but I didn't find anything helpful... if I failed, I'm sorry.

My friend's computer got this error message today.
"Disk read error has occurred...press ctrl alt delete to restart." :cry:
Usually I wouldn't be in such a rush but he is leaving for New York today to work for a UN project and he really, really needs his laptop and all the info on there. I have like literally 12 hours to help him fix this and I'm dumbfounded. I tried changing boot sequences, tried diagnostics (won't let me :non: ), tried reinstalling xp (won't let me :non: ), tried resetting the bios.

Whenever I try to boot something from the CD, the screen goes blank. It will start loading files for the reinstallation but it won't let me get to the actual blue installation screen. Same with diagnostics tool. I am planning on opening up the computer later and removing the battery and perhaps checking that the cords are properly plugged into the HDD. He had it changed recently because his last one crashed and burned. It's an old Dell Inspiron computer from like 2005/6. (Forgot the exact model).

Does anyone know what to do? I have rather limited tools and options, but I really want to help him out before he leaves... so I thought I'd ask my best friends at Tomshardware since they are always so helpful :bounce:

Any tips and stuff that I can check as soon as I get off work would be amazing.
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More about urgent disk read error occurred press ctrl delete restart
  1. I wonder if, it being such an old model the faulty drive was replaced with a secondhand one which has now failed too.
  2. See, if I could get into the windows installer, then I could do so much more... I just feel frustrated that I can't do anything about it.

    I'm going to open it up and see if I can swap an IDE cable or something, or perhaps even just adjust it... but what do I know?
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