Thankyou for the suggestions.
Unfortunately creating a new user didn't fix anything, however and neither did repopulating the directories. I'm afraid I forgot about fsck though. I did manage to backup my files using a LiveCD, however. And I have also now tried wiping the hard drive and completely reinstalling Suse. It seemed to install well at first, but when rebooted after installing updates and drivers, I got an error message which told me that the file system was broken and I had to manually repair it. Thinking something must have installed incorrectly, I wiped and tried again and the same thing happened. It's sounding more like a problem with the actual hard drive to me now. It was a replacement sent to me by the manufacturer to replace a previous faulty hard drive. Perhaps they have a design flaw. I ran tests in advance of installing first time around to make sure that the hardware was supported, and this hard drive lasted several months instead of the three weeks it took for the last one to go wrong. I'm sure it's not the laptop that's affected it, as the replacement was actually put into a different laptop, which I also tested in advance.
But just in case, this is the output of df -h previous to reinstalling:
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mountedon
rootfs 20G 17G 2.3G 88% /
devtmpfs 998M 220K 998M 1% /dev
tmpfs 994M 3.9M 990M 1% /dev/shm
/dev/sda2 20G 17G 2.3G 88% /
/dev/sda3 272G 133G 138G 50% /home
So there was a little less space than I thought, but still plenty left.
Last edited by Glaedr; 06-14-2012 at 01:47 PM.