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CD-ROM not found, then hard disk not found

I am trying to install debian for the first time.  I downloaded debian-amd64 5.04 installer images and made DVDs.
I booted with disk one in the DVD drive.  Early on in the process, the installer says "No common CD-ROM was detected".
I worked around this by taking the DVD out of the DVD drive, and instead inserting it into a USB DVD drive that I plugged into the PC.
The installer found the DVD in this new location, and continued.
But now a new error:  "No disk drive was detected".
Does the combination of both these errors pinpoint a particular problem? 
Is it possible that my hardware is too new for debian 5.04 (I just bought it a week ago), and that I just need to wait for a new version to come out?

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