My guess is that it is a problem somehow related to the autorun feature of windows and a few other things. Usually some program is associated with DVD-VIDEO discs so that when a DVD-VIDEO disc is inserted into the drive, that program gets called by Windows to play the disc. If something is wrong with that program, it can crash when you place a disc into the drive.
However, to lock up the whole system usually requires a hardware error. Windows is typically very stupid about dealing with those. For example, if there is a problem reading the disc, Windows will typically keep trying to re-read the disc and it lock the whole system until the DVD writer finally manages to read the disc successfully, or it gives up after retrying enough times.
As for why windows would get corrupted afterwards, I have no idea. Something seriously went wrong.
How old is the system, is drive jumper correctly set (i.e. master/slave) and is the drive on IDE connector separate from hard drive? I have an older P2 450 MHZ system that will not even boot with a particular PCI wireless adapter installed, but system boots with no problem when wireless adapter is removed. I hope you don’t have a similar issue with your drive because that could mean drive replacement may be only solution.
Unfortunately, you guessed correctly. It looks like you have some sort of driver or memory resident program loaded that is messing around with your DVD writer. Booting into safe mode was confirmation of this because safe mode generally bypasses loading most 3rd party drivers and software, which I think you already figured out. If the drive was defective, it should have caused the system to lock up in safe mode too.
The problem of course, is how to figure out which program/driver is the culprit. I don’t know of any sure technique to figure this sort of thing out, but I might be able to give you some tools so you at least are not digging around that haystick with your bare hands.
The first thing to try is a tool called busTRACE suggested by another forum member. It shows you the filter drivers loaded for CD/DVD devices on your system. Those are probably the main culprits I can think of. The idea is to try running the thing in safe mode and in normal mode and see what else is loaded in normal mode that isn’t loaded in safe mode. One of these things should be the culprit. Then try removing them one by one till the problem goes away.
The other thing to do is to compare the processes running in safe mode and in normal bootup mode (CTRL-ALT-DEL to get task manager up, a simple screen capture in safe mode can be used for reference). Then you kill the processes one by one till the problem goes away. Note that some processes which are services cannot be killed in task manager. For those you need to shut the service associated with the process down using window’s service control menu (open a command prompt and type “start services.msc” without the quotes). Certain other processes cannot be killed at all.
Beyond that I’m not sure what else to do. Maybe someone else can help. The easier way out of this is to reformat and reinstall windows from scratch, carefully checking the drive to see if it still works properly as you re-install each piece of software you normally use.
Another thing to try is run msconfig to disable all startup programs except those required for Windows to run, and then enable one at a time until problem recurs which should then tell you what the culprit is. This can be time consuming if you have many programs running on startup but could diagnos the problem if all else fails.