Two days ago, as I switched on my computer, I got this error message; “A disk read error occurred. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart”. It is the dreaded Black Screen of Death. The most probable reason for this message is that the hard disk on which the computer is booting would have crashed or its in the process of crashing.

The best you *must* do at this point is that, remove the faulty hard disk, connect it as a slave to another computer and take backup of all data. After data is safe, you can try and find out the point of failure. After all, that error message doesn’t necessarily mean that your disk has crashed.

Probable Points of Failure

  1. The bus connecting the hard disk to the mother board is faulty.
  2. The master boot record (MBR) on the hard disk got corrupted.
  3. SMPS (Switch Mode Power Supply) failure. In this case, your computer may not boot at all. But there are times when only one of the power plugs may fail.

If anyone has encountered any other points of failure, please let me know in comments and I will add them here.


  1. For the faulty bus, you can grab another bus cable from the secondary drives, connect it to the mother board with the faulty hard disk and try booting. If it works properly, head straight to the electronic store to get a new cable.
  2. To replace the corrupted MBR, pop in your operating system’s installation CD/DVD and follow the on-screen instructions. For Windows, boot in from the installation CD, press ‘R’ for recovery console, give your administrator password, and type the following the commands: fixboot, fixmbr. For linux, you must reinstall the boot loader (grub). Restart the computer now. If all is well, it should reboot properly.
  3. Remove the power plug connected to the faulty hard disk and connect one of the other plugs that are attached to the SMPS. Reboot the computer now and try.

In my case, my hard disk had crashed. But thankfully, I had proper backup of all data.

6 Responses to “Solution: A disk read error occurred. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart”

  1. Dipankar Says:

    Good man , you had all you stuff backed up :). I think its time i did the same just in case.

  2. Aswin Anand Says:

    @Dipankar: I can’t imagine all data going poof! So had to backup at regular intervals. It has paid off now.

  3. Priya Says:

    how to login to remote server by sending username and password using java program…

  4. Ramesh Kumar Sapkota Says:

    I get the same error: disk read error occurred. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart”
    When I tried to install windows 7 from USB i got such error and the computer even boots properly in the winter/ cold season. I have to press physical power button a No. of times to boot the system. I’m also guessing now perhaps the cable of Hard disk are fault or SMPS.

  5. Suresh Says:

    I used to get the same error often:”A disk read error occurred. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to restart” OR “Reboot and select proper Boot device or insert Boot media in selected Boot device and press a key”. I’m guessing HD is not detected by the BIOS and I did reset the BIOS settings by just unplugging and plugging the BIOS jumper. Then I switched ON my PC. It worked out. But this has been just a temporary solution.

    Please anybody provide me a permanent solution, if there!

  6. satyajit Says:

    I had same problem. So what I did was that I joined HD as slave and installed xp. Then when it rebooted, I changed my HD to primary. And guess what!! I didn’t see that error again.