|Apparently the Sony OEM drive - CRX215E5 - is an IDE drive.|
Burner drives have at least two lasers and associated circuits. Sometimes one laser or the circuits for one malfunctions, but usually that only happens after the drive has been used a lot.
The laser lens inside the drive may be dirty. Try using a laser lens cleaning CD in the drive.
You don't need any specific driver for an optical drive - Windows has the necessary drivers built in - but there are some other requirements.
You said you re-loaded your software.
If you used a regular Windows CD, or only the first CD that may have come with the computer when it was new.....
Whenever you load Windows from a regular Windows CD (or DVD) from scratch, after Setup is finished you must load the drivers for the mboard, particularly the main chipset drivers, in order for Windows to have the proper drivers for and information about your mboard hardware, including it's AGP or PCI-E, ACPI, USB 2.0 if it has it, and drive controller support. If you have a generic system and have the CD that came with the mboard, all the necessary drivers are on it. If you load drivers from the web, brand name system builders and mboard makers often DO NOT have the main chipset drivers listed in the downloads for your model - in that case you must go to the maker of the main chipset's web site, get the drivers, and load them.
A burner drive may not be detected correctly, especially when it is connected to secondary IDE, until AFTER the main chipset drivers have been loaded.
If you have not loaded those, in your case, get those here and load them:
Inf Update utility - # 2
Apparently your model is a desktop/tower and also comes with a DVD-rom drive - of course, it can't burn CDs or DVDs , or recognize blank burnable CDs or DVDs.
Is it connected to the same IDE data cable as the Sony burner drive?
XP will recognize a drive jumpered as slave when it is by itself on an IDE data on newer mboards, but it's not recommended you do that, because in some situations the drive won't be recognized properly
By any chance did you unplug any connector on the IDE data cable to the Sony burner / DVD-rom drive while you were installing the new hard drive?
It is common to un-intentionally damage IDE data cables, especially while removing them - the 80 wire ones are more likely to be damaged. What usually happens is the cable is ripped at either edge and the wires there are either damaged or severed, often right at a connector or under it's cable clamp there, where it's hard to see - if a wire is severed but it's ends are touching, the connection is intermittant, rather than being reliable.
Another common thing is for the data cable to be separated from the connector contacts a bit after you have removed a cable - there should be no gap between the data cable and the connector - if there is press the cable against the connector to eliminate the gap.
80 wire data cables are also easily damaged at either edge if the cable is sharply creased at a fold in the cable.
Try another data cable if in doubt.
Note that you don't need an 80 wire data cable for either of your optical drives, a 40 wire one is fine, as long as there isn't a IDE hard drive on the same data cable, in which case it must have 80 wires, BUT if you get a replacement IDE DVD combo burner drive (burns and reads both CDs and DVDs) capable of burrning 16X or greater DVD -R or DVD +R, then the IDE data cable MUST have 80 wires in order to support the UDMA 66 data transfer speed the drive is capable of.
Take a look in Device Manager - there should be no yellow ! (exclamation mark character) beside the Sony drive there - if there is, you may have an incorrect entry in your registry.
If you do have the main chipset drivers loaded, if there is nothing wrong with your IDE data cable, and if there is no yellow ! beside the Sony drive in Device Manager, then the drive is probably faulty and needs to be replaced.
I prefer LG DVD combo drives myself - they're cheap and well balanced (less vibration and noise when spinning at the faster speeds) - the only drawback they have is they're not as good at reading scratched CDs as some more expensive models, but if that isn't a concern they're fine.
Note that only Verbatim disks are recommended for all types of disks that can be burned in the LG drives - other brands / types are recommended for some types of disks. The bulk drive (drive in a bag with a CD and a few sheets of paper) comes with a list of the brands and types of disks (media) that it works with it properly.
That said, I've had no problem with burning TDK or Sony CD-Rs in them.
Optical drive firmware updates are usually only useful to improve media compatibility - which brands and types of disks work with them properly. If the drive worked fine as a burner at any time before with the firmware it already had, updating the firmware will not make a drive that no longer works properly as a burner drive, work properly as a burner after it has the newer firmware.
If you saved the original firmware before you flashed with the newer firmware, or if you can find the orginal firmware version on the web (which version it was may be printed on a label on the drive) you should be able to use the same procedure to re-load the original firmware.
Similar to flashing the bios on the mboard, you should NOT update the firmware unless you can find specific info that doing so will cure the problem you are having. The cheap chip the firmware is stored on (or the cheap bios chip on a mboard) can only be flashed a small number of times, and in some cases the flash chip fails physically the FIRST TIME you attempt to flash it - for an optical drive there is no way of recovering from that.