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Creating a Windows Vista recovery CD - doesn't work.

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Don't know where you got the ISO from. Are you sure it is from an authorized distributer? Nothing says it can't be junk from the start.

You may also have issues with your hard drive. If it is a clean install, as in you don't care about the data on the disk, try to re-fromat the disk first to eliminate that problem.

Down load Ubuntu and load the live version, just burn the image to the disk and when it asks you whether to install or try select try, You can check for hardware issues that way. You can also format a disk from the live version but I wouldn't unless you know what you are doing. You can cause other problems that can't be fixed with a windows boot disk. I'm thinking for you to just check to see if everything works and not get fancy.