Sticking to XP was a good move. Vista bigs down so many systems as to make them unusable for a serious task, which is what video work is.
The only limit you have is the in the number of ports available. Firewire can sometimes daisy chain, too. However, I find computers to lag after adding more than two USB2 HDD's. There is some drag to CPU, some latency by the OS, when too many external devices are installed. I try to only use two HDD's by USB2 on a system at any one time, sometimes adding my 3rd backup drive temporarily. It usually sits unplugged.
Don't use an external hub for a hard drive, you need to use a full internal port (technically still a hub, but honestly not the same). External hubs are only good for secondary devices like printers, some scanners (flatbed, NOT film/slide), mice, etc. They have a tendency to go slow, disappear (requires an unplug of hub, or system reboot), etc. Keyboards should never be put in a hub either, nor KVMs.
My laptop has four native ports. My main desktop has seven (6 outside, one only accessible inside the case, for a USBkey or dongle). I find it to be enough on both systems.
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