Worth checking device manager: start > run > devmgmt.msc
If there are any devices with a yellow exclamation mark you need to find out what the problem is. Old, corrupt or incorrectly installed drivers are the normal issue. The drives should appear under portable devices, if they don't or have yellow exclamations you need to uninstall them from within device manager: right click the correct device > uninstall. Also make sure you have the current chipset drivers installed.
If it's all USB devices, a faulty USB port on the laptop is looking more likely. But try an alternative port and see if there are any hotfixes and patches from MS.
There is also the outside chance that the laptop only has USB1.x ports which in turn are struggling to power USB2 devices (USB2 is supposed to be backwards compatible). A powered hub or PCMCIA USB host should sort the problem, but you won't know until you buy one and if it's not the case is an expense you could have done without