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External Hard Drive FREEZING laptop

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Hi, I am new to the forums and have searched all topics about hard drives to find a solution.
I was unable to find a similar problem, however, if I missed it, I am sorry. (provide a link and I can go to the link)

Here's my problem:
I am running a Compaq Presario V5000 laptop, XP (with both service packs), and have a WD 250G external drive.
I run the external drive through a 2.2 USB port, with NO problems, until yesterday.
I have been doing the torrent route for music and have not had ANY problems, thus far.
NOW, when I plug in my hard drive, the computer freezes and I cannot access anything on my drive. The screen freezes, but the laptop seems to be running.
I have over 120G of music and TV shows and movies on here.
I have gone into Device manager and looked at the USB ports, everything seems to be running correctly.
I have contemplated updating the drivers, thinking that would help. I haven't done anything of the sort since purchasing the laptop in October of 2006.

An incident happened the other night, which at the time didn't concern me. The power was shut off in my building due to a lightening storm and when I restarted, everything was fine. I was able to access the drive, watch a movie and continue downloading.
I have discussed this with a friend, he suggested reformatting. I AM NOT WILLING TO DO THAT. I have CDs on here that are ALL back in the US.
1.) Could it be the power supply? I do leave the external on, as well as the laptop, but nothing seems to overheat.
2.) Should I try the driver updates on the USB ports? I am not sure which one I plug it into, so i would probably update drivers on all of them.
3.) I have access to one of the world's greatest electronics mart here in Seoul, so recovery would be an option. Cost is not a problem, as MY WHOLE music collection is on here. Should I use this as a LAST option?

I apologize if this has been discussed in a previous thread, I searched and found nothing similar. i know some forums go ballistic if you submit a new thread of a previously discussed item.

Any help would be nice.
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I have figured out it is a USB port problem.
I contacted Compaq's customer service, uninstalled the ports, I installed the chipset, per their instructions.
Still freezing.
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