|Oh, the cable I was talking about was a cable from the port to the device--like to a printer--but a flash drive won't have a cable.|
There are no yellow ? or ! in device manager for hardware that may be affecting the USB ports?
I'm not sure if you're talking about 98 or XP. Your specs say 98; your tags say XP.
If it's 98, flash drive drivers can sometimes be a problem but it still should show that you've plugged in a USB device.
Whenever you do an 'update driver' you'll always get 'the best driver is already installed' unless more than one driver is available and you've previoiusly installed one that the OS doesn't consider to be the best. Even then it may call that inferior driver the 'best' one since it's already installed. That's especially true for 98. To update the driver you either need to run the installation program that came with the update or navigate to the location of the update so the OS can find it.
XP can sometimes power down the USB ports. That can be disabled. Check my # 2 here: