USB Ports - Mass Storage Devices - Unknown Device

Model: Satellite A135-S2276
OS: Vista
I recently tried plugging in my media card reader that I've had for several years now and has worked many dozens of times.   Windows responded with an 'Unknown Device'  response.  I thought this was odd, so I changed and tried each USB port.  To no avail the device wasn't recognized.  I tried it in another computer and it worked fine. 
I began to try two other mass storage devices that I know used to work, up until recently, on the laptop.  Both now are 'Unknown Devices'.   I now have a strong feeling that someting was wrong with windows vista.  So I search around and find methods to force the driver (inf) cache to reset which should reload any corrupted drivers.   Tried many methods, nothing worked, same results.  I saw that Vista Service Pack 2 just came out, I installed that hoping that it would fix.  Nope.  
I gave up on it being a software issue after I did a fresh reinstall of the OS and with the base OS with no other software installed same results. 
Is there a way to diagnose if the USB is malfunctioning from a hardware standpoint?  Is it possible the USB, even thought windows recognizes it, is dead on the motherobard?  If so, how do I get this fixed?  Motherboard replacement?
Help!!

It sounds like it is working enough that it can recognize that soemthign is plugged into it.
You say you did a fresh install of Windows.  Did you use the recovery disk or a retail Windows copy.  If oyu didn't use the recovery disk then maybe you are missing a driver.  Best woudl be to use the recovery disk.  If a USB mouse doesn't work after that then the hardware has an issue.  Assuming the BIOS is OK.
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