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CDs sometimes not recognized

I am running Windows Vista Business on a new Dell XPS laptop.
Sometimes (frequently) it does not recognize a CD I place in the DVD/
CD drive. In this case, when I try to open or Explore it, it asks if
I want to "Prepare this blank disc". This has happened with many CDs
of different types (audio, data, applications).

Initially Dell send me a drive replacement, but I`m still having
this problem. The funny thing is that I can insert a CD, try it, get
a failure, eject it, . . . a dozen times. Once it recognizes it and
allows me to open it, all CDs appear to work from then on.

Tonight this happened. Finally the CD started working. However,
when I opened an audio CD and double clicked on a track, it would not
play it. It brought up Windows Media Player (WMP) as usual, but then
the busy icon stayed there (I waited about 10 minutes). I closed WMP
and tried again. This time I kept getting a repeated pop-up window in
WMP that said to wait. It would flash up, go away, repeat . . . until
I closed WMP. This was new!

I closed WMP again and opened it from Programs. When I clicked on
Rip, the new window said: "To begin, insert an audio CD into the CD
drive" and it showed it as a blank CD.

Any ideas where I should start? I`m tired of Dell reccomending a

Thanks, Alan

P.S. I found some messages on the board about various CD problems,
but nothing that seemed to match this.