For playing DVDs (as in movies etc), that's normal - depending on the version of Media Player you have, you may need a third-party plugin to play them.
A great (free) alternative is VLC, which will play any type of media file you can throw at it, plus pressed DVD movies too. I have it installed on all my PCs.
Have you tried fiddling with the Autoplay settings for that particular drive?
Also, maybe make sure DMA is enabled for that drive (see the link in my signature, "How to check/enable DMA"), if only just to rule that out as a cause of the occasional freezing up when you try to access a disc.
If you could, a list of any software which might affect/access your DVD drives would be great, too.
EDIT: If you are using the same IDE cable that you used with your previous drive, then it maybe worthwhile swapping that out for a new one, if all else fails.