|Your laser lens may be "dirty". |
Have you tried using a laser lens cleaning CD in the optical drive ?
If you don't have one, most places that sell CDs or DVDs have them, or even some "dollar" stores have them for a buck or two.
Or - if this is a laptop, try ejecting the drive's tray and with no disk on the tray, wipe off the obvious laser lens with a tissue or a soft cloth.
Vista lists optical drives several different ways depending on where you look.
If a drive is being recognized properly...
If you double click on the Computer icon, a combo DVD burner drive (reads and burns both CDs and DVDs) is listed as a DVD-RW drive
If you go to Device Manager, it lists optical drives under the CD / DVD-rom drives category, but, that's the minimum type - CD-rom or DVD-rom - all optical drives are at least the first type, but most drives these days can also burn CDs, or both CDs and DVDs .
When you open up that category, a combo DVD burner drive is listed as a DVD-ram drive.
(Double click on the Computer icon, select System Properties in the top bar - Device Manager is on the left.)
Look in Device Manager to see if a DVD-ram drive is marked with an error icon - e.g. a yellow question mark, or a red X.
If you have more than one burning program installed other than the simple one that's built into Vista, they are likely to clash with each other if more that one has a module that runs all the time - they usually do.
Newer versions of Windows Media Player have the ability to burn optical disks. You may have problems if Windows Media Player is running at the same time as another burning program.
Some system have problems when a Nero version is installed if it's INCD module is installed.
Some Nero software suites install a virtual optical drive - in that case, you have at least one more burner drive listed than you have physical burner drives - in Computer, and in Device Manager. That virtual drive can only be used by the Nero software.
Combo DVD burner drives have at least two lasers and associated circuits - after the drive has been used a lot, sometimes one of those malfunctions.
In that case, the drive won't read or burn any DVDs, or it won't read or burn any CDs.
Can this drive still read CDs ?