I feel your pain; I’ve been there. Try going a few days without internet access. it’s almost as frustrating. Technology is wonderful when it works.
suggestion : take a look at http://www.dropbox.com It’s a great place to work from (if you have internet). Stores your files on your laptop, in the cloud and any other device like your iPad or mobile. That plus your backup and you should have most bases covered.
good luck with the laptop woes, I’d suggest that you try a windows restore point to just before the system went sideways.
In the end, I think the problem was related to the difference between sleep and hibernate mode. On Win XP, sleep is the default. With the battery at the end of it’s life, weird things have been happening when the battery runs out in sleep mode and I eventually turn the laptop back on. We will see. So far, so good.