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Computer won't boot from CD drive

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Is that last post from 2012? I have the same issue with a friends Gateway Emachine. Booting from hard drive goes to endless loop. The HD was spinning and I could copy files off it with another computer. Tested for malware from that other computer, found nothing. Set the boot order to the CD first. Wouldn't boot from an XP install disk. Wouldn't boot from three different Linux live CDs. Wouldn't boot from a Hitachi drive diagnostic CD. Wouldn't boot from a Hiren's Boot Disk CD. Disconnected everything, same result. Tried different cables, etc., same result. Reset bios to defaults, pulled battery, same result. Got a couple stop errors, all with same explanation: new or incompatible hardware or faulty driver. There was no new hardware, and I couldn't get at the thing to remove or re-install drivers. Memory tested OK.

All this argues faulty IDE controller or bad MOBO, but I couldn't help thinking there was something simple I was missing.

So I thought I'd post here in case anyone happens to see this and has found a solution.
Any other suggestions greatly appreciated!