For some reason, I tend to generate a lot of static electricity. At work, I touch one corner of one of the privacy panels to "discharge" any built-up static. Sometimes this is enough to trigger the barcode readers.... which is a little weird.
This afternoon, I reached out to open and turn on my laptop and ---- ZZZAP! It fired up OK, but when I tried to move the mouse (it sits on my graphics tablet), nada. After using the touchpad for a while, I realized I missed the mouse and went looking for an alternate... which is when I found that it wasn't my tablet that had died but all my USB ports. They are now zombies... they appear to be alive -- they both give power to connected items and also are seen to be active by Windows -- but they no longer function.
While I could adjust to not having the mouse and I would accept not having the graphics tablet, it also means I can't transfer any music or images... and that just.won't.do.
After a web search for "acer usb not responding" I found that this is not an uncommon occurrence among laptops... the USB ports sometimes just randomly die (and likely my static zap was only a coincidence and not a trigger).
The most frequent suggested fix is to buy a PCMCIA USB expansion card (about $65) which would return two of my three ports. Of course it would also mean I would lose my wireless card... though that is not too critical right now (since the battery only holds a charge for about 8 minutes, I leave it on the desk, plugged in; adding an ethernet cable wouldn't matter).
Since my laptop will be 3 years old in March, we had slated it for replacement soon anyway... we may just have to go shopping a little earlier than planned.