there should be a diagram for jumper settings on your drive. If installed on the same cable as a hard drive, the hard drive should be master and the dvd burner should be slave. this is not universal, you may have to try diffrent ways to see what works but that is what I have found is most often best (so try it first). If you are putting the dvd drive on the same cable as your old cd drive, make the dvd drive master and the cd drive slave (again, try this first but it may or may not be the best setup).
Download cdspeed (free program), take a dvd (a purchased movie is fine), and run the burst rate test. Dma problems are so common, this is an easy way to get it out of the way right at the start. The burst rate test should report 22-24MBps minimum.
Since you are instaling yourself, check your power supply. Either take a picture of the label and post it or post its specs (brand, and amps on 3.3, 5 and 12v channels, and model). You have upgraded some and are upgradeing more so it might be good to check if the power supply is up to it.
Find good media. As has been said, VERBATIM, taiyo yuden, VERBATIM, taiyo yuden (I might get shot for that one). What country you are in may effect what media is avalable and what to buy, but in the US, many buy ty online. Sony, fuji or tdk 8x+r that is made in japan (it must be made in japan and it must be 8x+r) is your most liklly bet for ty. Sony is probably your only bet and even it is hard to find though (people have been hunting out the ty for so long the market is saturated with other stuff I’m guessing). As far as verbatim, you are looking for mcc media. 16x+r is pretty much guareteed to be mcc. Look for it on sale. The going price for any good media is 15$ per 50 or less.
Now that you have good media, I guess you need software. You might want to consider paying for a copy of nero ver 6.6 (there are oem versions pretty cheap). Avoid ver 7 as your only program as it is new and pretty buggy. You can do pretty much anything with free software, but you will need many programs if you are going to do many diffrent tasks. Nero just gives you something to start with that does everything from one program. In some cases, free software will do a beter job than nero, but nero works quite well for some things, acceptable for others, and not that great for some. Nero gives you a good base to start with though, using only one program and it can do many things very well. About playing dvd’s, you need software (normally not free due to liciencing fees) and nero plays dvd’s (windvd and power dvd are the next most common, often free with drives or systems and they seem to work well). I’ll not go on further yet about software as it can get very complex depending on what you want to do. Ok, just one more thing. If you want to copy copyrighted movies you need software to do that. I would recomend anydvd (not free but the best), or dvd decryptor and dvd fab decryptor (and or several other free tools like iso buster).
Look here for more tools (a LOT more tools including all the free ones).
Your dvd burner can burn just about anything cd or dvd (except maybe dvd-ram). It is a full function cd reader/writer dvd reader/writer. you do not need a cd burner if you have a dvd burner (though having multiple drives has advantages, one might be beter at something than the other).
Once you have gotten good media, you need to make sure it burns well on your drive. Unfortunatly, there is no single media that can be recomended that will burn good on every drive (at least without some work). Even the best medias may not perform on some drives. Your drive has firmware that has instructions on how to burn every media out there. I know, how could it have specific instructions for every media made? It cannot. further, if the instructions for a certain media are not good, a good quality disk will burn bad. The drive can be good, the media can be good, but if the firmware cannot compliment the two, you get a bad burn. Every drive has several firmware versions (including hacked versions that may be beter than any oem version but they void your warranty). I would either update to the newest firmware (most liklly to be the best), and thats the newest official firmware that will not viod your warranty, or take the time to search the forums to find what is the best firmware for your drive. here is the nec forum.
here is the nec faq (do not skip reading this, it will tell you a lot about your drive)
Also, look through the other stickys in the nec forum.
Now that I have rambled on about getting a good burn, how do I test to see if I got a good burn? Unfortunatly, as far as I know, nec drives are not good scanning drives (my nec is an older model so check the nec forum to see what they say about your model scanning). Even if it isn’t a good scaning drive, I would burn something and scan it anyway. It might be useless but it might tell you something and I think it is worth checking out in case it telly you something. Use cdspeed (mentioned earlier) and do a disk quality test. If you want to post it and ask about the results, scan at 8x (I think that is right for nec drives, full info should be in the nec faq), after it finishes, close the text window (make note of te ecc number in the text window), hit the floppy disk icon, and save the graph as a png, and attach it to a post here so we can tell you about it.
Another test is the transfer rate test. It can reliably be done on any drive (dvd drive for dvd and dvd rom drives are fine), though drives that are beter readers might come out beter (I have to wonder if the scan problems with nec drives is that they are good burners but bad readers, just a wild, uneducated guess there though so I don’t get yelled at for not knowing what I’m taliking about). The transfer rate test basically just tries to read the disk from start to finish at max speed. If it can read the disk fine, the curve will be nice and smooth (some drives may dip down during speed change but it will spike down and right back up, not stay down). If the curve is smooth, the the drive could read the disk at max speed all the way through. If it has read problems (and has to slow down to read the disk at spots), the curve will dip down. Probelms reading those spots are typically caused by high errors. It wont tell you what an error scan will, but its something, and even for the experienced user, transfer rate tests can tell a little more about certain spots on an error scan. Of course the final and most important test is will the disk read/play when you try to use it. Dvd movies are the best for testing this (especially if you have a dvd player that is good at reading recorded disks). If you are geting a bunch of skips and or pixelated spots and or other problems in a copied movie, its often too many errors (though it may be the player too, so you have to get a feel for if your player(s) like recorded movies).
Last thing. Earlier I mentioned verbatim if mcc or sony if ty (yuden00t02). mcc and yuden00t02 are media codes. These are contained on the disk and can be read, identifying the actual manufacture. Verbatim 16x are generally always mcc (no shock, mcc is mitsubishi chemical corperation, and verbatium is a sub company of mitsubishi). mitsubishi no longer makes 8x media though, and verbatim buys media from other companies to sell as verbatium 8x media. The media code is what matters. Use the cdspeed info tab or dvd identifier to read the media code off any disk you buy. the media code identifies the the true manufacture and therefor that is what you should go off to know what media you have. Brands like verbatim are only usefull as a guide to finding a media code. Avoid memoex, they are the sluts of media. you might even get diffrent media codes in the same pack (meaning two diffrent companies made the disks in a single pack and memorex threw them together in their spindle). The members of cdfreaks are colectivly superior experts on media codes and what brands are what (you can sometimes identify what the media code is by pack type, country of manufacture, serial numbers visable through the pack etc.). Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you cannot. Also, ty is the most faked media code there is. Cheap brands will use ty media codes even though the disk was not manufactured by ty. Major brands usally do not use faked media (store brands are not major brands for this purpose, especially fry’s gq disks).
to start with (if you are in the US or it is avalable to you), verbatim 16x+r might be the best media to start with as it will be mcc (very small chance it might be ty which should be ty which is ok), and it should be easy to find on sale for a good price. It will give you good media to start with till you get more used to this and absorb some of the info. As I said befor though, test it. Even these great disks many not work well on all drive/firmware combinations.
Hope that didn’t confuse you to much but I felt like rambling and that should answer many of your inital questions (including some of those you forgot).