My feeling is this might just possibly be a software problem, as a few months ago I deleted certain Apps I wasn't using to save HD space. I haven't used this laptop to play CDs or DVDs for awhile, but I never had this issue before, and the DVD player is there. It's just that any disc I insert is rejected now, even blanks. I read a post that suggested repairing disk permissions worked on an iMac, but it doesn't work here.
Any help appreciated. I would think there'd be some warning indications if the drive was going out. Again, it worked perfectly before.
I don't think I have a hardware test disc around. Would my OS X disc help in any way? Is there a way of testing the software - or would reinstalling the player help? If so, how could I selectively just install the player?
If it will boot using the OS X disc, you can run Disk Utility to repair permissions and repair the HD files.
Will it boot OK in Safe Mode? See What is Safe Boot, Safe Mode? (Mac OS X)
http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107392 Takes a while to run, but it usually "fixes" problems.
Safe Boot takes longer than normal startup
Resolve startup issues and perform disk maintenance with Disk Utility and fsck