I don't suppose you've checked the harddrives health? Theres a small chance that it's failing, being through USB the interface doesn't always pass on SMART info. I'd suggest a full chkdsk with surface scan just to make sure all is well.
If it were my drive I'd remove it from the enclosure and run spinrite on it.
If a laptop that is under PC World Warranty (that oen you pay for) isn't fixed within 8 weeks you use to be able to demand a new one as a replacement instead. it had to be a new one to, not a refurb. Atleast that was the rule when I worked fixing them.
Now noone would ever wait 8 weeks though unless they had some super rare laptop and had used it as a plate for a Vindaloo Curry and then "dropped" it underneath a tank. And even then you would probabaly get a refurb in time, the funny thing about the "refurbs" was, is that they had to have the same serial number on the bottom!
Something strange, but the system attributes have not changed for the folder have they? Only mention it as we have seen this happen a few times with the SIMSAREA as well as other files in school of their own accord.
Open a command prompt and go to the USB drive root (F: for example) and type "ATTRIB HOME"
If it returns "SHR HOME" it means it's a system file, hidden, and read only. You can remove the attributes by typing "ATTRIB -S -H -R HOME" and it should be back and visible in explorer.
On a separate note, any errors in the system area in event viewer? My External USB HDD started playing silly beggers recently and it had loads of bad sectors according to event viewer.
nope its attribs according to winhex were fine, and in dos didnt exist. but as i said earlier, the drive showed up a lot less space than it used to, indicating that windows thought it had been deleted.
either way i've had the drive about 4 years now and think ill be looking at a better one now as this one does get very hot anyway when in use