I purchased an OEM NEC 3550A DVD burner from Newegg recently, and shortly after installing it began to get problems with the drive.
The drive will not read any kind of DVD 95% of the time, if I put in a data DVD or a movie DVD or a game DVD, it will only show up as being a totally blank disc.
I've started to have problems with my NEC 3550A about 5 months after I bought it. But my problems are not a severe as yours. The drive would not detect about 33% of the DVDs I stick in it. I need to rely on a 4 year old DVD-ROM to read those "rejected" DVDs.
I replaced the IDE cable, but that didn't change anything.
Perhaps it's the motherboard. I guess I'll find out when I stick the NEC 3550A into my new Conroe rig that I will be building. I am one the prowl for a new DVD-Burner
What you should really do is have a separate dvd-rom drive for reading data and leave the NEC 3550 for burning content, this way you don't wear down on the laser, etc. I have a NEC 3550 model and it's been a pleasure to use. Rock solid and stable.
It actually ends up being that once in a while I end up with a dvd that can't be read by my dvd-rom, so the 3550 ends up being able to read it.
Also, make sure that you clean your dvds, if they are scratched, a little water on a microfiber cloth helps to rub off oils, etc.(make sure to dry it well before insertion) DO NOT USE ALCOHOL! It's corrosive on the plastic surface.
It might end up being that the unreadable discs are just too badly damaged.
The other thing to consider is that you might have accidentally set up the drive to be in the wrong mode, slave or master on the jumper. If you do this, you will surely not be able to access the drive. I've done this before during installs and a quick switch of the jumper solves this problem. Remember, you cannot have 2 slaves or 2 masters. One drive is master, the other is slave.
Last but not least, if this is happening on regular basis, with new discs, then it's time to RMA, this model doesn't normally act this way, in which case, you got a defective unit.