I finally got Plextor tech support back on the phone. The tech guys do seem to have their act together. It's ashame that Plextor is bundled with such junky software.
I asked the tech guy what software he might recommend other than the Roxio stuffy. He said about 90% of the techs there personally use Nero 6.
I tried Nero6's demo online yesterday and it immediately gave me a "demo expired" message. Great... I downloaded an outdated demo of about 23 megs.
Anyway... here is how I got my drive letter access back, and it did work. I still have not yet re-loaded any burning software. One thing at at time...
From Plextor tech support:
The solution to this issue is simple and dangerous at the same time. It involves going into the Windows registry and making changes to it
THIS CAN BE EXTREMELLY DANGEROUS, please exercise caution while implementing this fix
For Advanced users:
Back up Registry to another directory in case you need to reinstall it:
Start>Run>Regedit>Registry>Export Registry File to C:, now start the next step:
1) Open Plus Box (Hkey_local_machine\system\control set 001\control\class)
2) Find Key that starts with (4D36E965).
3) Delete the (lower filter).
4) Delete the (upper filter).
5) Reboot and check each time to see if issue is solved.
6) If it does not work for you then try the next entries in control set 002
7) Then control set 003 each time check to see if issue is solved.
If this does not solve your issue then you may have to work with your Operating System (OEM) or Microsoft for further support on the Windows 2000 registry keys.
The theory that was explained to me was that Windows was trying to load some drivers that it sensed were already loaded, at least in part, so it aborted the whole procedure and refused to load any of the driver files. Deleting those keys in the registry eliminates this problem.
Incidentally, they definitely recommend ASPI 4.7.1 or later. Many people think the 4.6 stuff is great, but this tech said it was too old for my system. I did notice however that when I ran ASPI check, that only two of the four files said 4.7.1, and that was the way it was supposed to be.
I would never ever have figured this one out if I lived to be 200.
Hope this helps you guys. Thanks for the feedback.