Thanks for the reply. Actually we changed cables and still no dice. We used the same 3 discs to test the drives in the different computers. Since I wrote this morning, we swapped hard drives as well as cd drives.
So now, my friend's machine has my hard drive and my cd rom. Guess what? his machine (with my hard drive, my cd rom drive) is now exhibiting the same error (device not ready).
My computer with his drives is functioning properly.
To me, it's got to be something in my O/S. But for the life of me I can't figure out what it is. Is it worth trying a reinstall of windows?
thanks for your help