thanks for all your replies.
Tommy CP - i'm trying to borrow a friend's laptop to try the drive on but it won't be for a few days.
ako - i think i've tried only having Nero installed (i did uninstall it with the 'clean tool') but I didn't use the registry tool.
i'll try it again while i'm waiting to borrow the laptop.
harley2ride - i've tried both dvd-r and dvd+r, nothing happens and if i click on the drive with either disk in it i still get the 'not recognised' message so i haven't been able to format a dvd-rw disk, either. also, purpose made movies will not play in the drive although they do in the cdrw/dvd drive.
eggy bref - sorry to hear you have the same problem. maybe the kind folks on here will be able to help.
whilst searching through the forums, i read that some people have had problems after updating the firmware so i purposely haven't done that as it was working ok at one stage.
further info - whilst searching for help, i looked into updating the driver (this makes me sound as if i know what i'm doing but nothing could be further from the truth!). Freecom don't seem to offer one relying instead on the Windows XP driver. however, on one of the 'driver download' sites there were a couple available. i'm a bit confused because they said they were USB 2.0 cable drivers but the icon indicated it was for an external drive.
the reason i mention this, is because i have recently installed a USB 2.0 hub (the faulty drive is connected directly to a new USB/Firewire board which i also recently installed, not the hub) and at some stage i lost the 'USB host controller' thing. not knowing how to get it back, i simply rolled back 'system restore' and it's been working fine since, but maybe this is causing the trouble.
i've no idea how drivers work, just that they allow Windows to communicate with the device, but i was wondering if somewhere along the line, the driver has been altered so that my drive thinks it's only a CD drive.
could this be possible ?