Vista x64 60-second freezes

Hi everyone...I have a problem with a Vista 64-bit machine that's pretty much got me at the end of my rope after a couple months of trying to diagnose it. What happens is, my machine will be humming along just fine and then, the hard drive light will come on and it will hang for a period of time ranging from 15 to 90 seconds--the average is about a minute. The HDD light is on solid (no flickering) and everything usually hangs up completely, even the clock on my G15 keyboard stops updating. All I can do is move the mouse cursor. If I'm doing something with sound, sometimes my sound will loop in a one-second period or so with the sound changing every 10-15 seconds (like it'll loop a certain set of sounds, then it'll loop a set of sounds from a second or two later, etc.) and sometimes the sound will just stop altogether as it runs out of sounds to play. (Or maybe it'll loop a bit, *then* stop.) When it finally decides to rejoin the land of the living, the HDD light goes back to normal operation, and the machine proceeds on like nothing's wrong. What's weirder is that sometimes, it'll lock and unlock a few times with the HDD light staying on more-or-less constantly; work for 5-10 seconds, freeze for 10-15, work for a couple more, freeze, then go back to normal. Or on some games, it'll stop and start and knock the sound out of sync but not completely lock.

What I'm doing doesn't seem to matter. It'll happen during normal web browsing, or playing Youtube videos, or playing any of my games (Mass Effect 2, World of Warcraft, others). It hung up for ~20 seconds when I fired up Firefox to post this. It seems to happen more often when I'm running stuff that requires a lot of HDD access, like when physical memory is getting lower and it's swapping more or when I initially load an application, but I'm not getting any HDD errors at all. Temperatures according to Speedfan seem normal; CPU cores max out at about 52C when wide open, GPU at around 65C. This room was very hot over the summer as it has no air conditioning so I'm concerned I might've cooked something; but again, this is a new video card, and I'm not getting any crashes or error messages or dialog boxes or anything. It doesn't bluescreen or put anything in the event logs. It just hangs and releases, hangs and releases, a few times an hour. As long as it doesn't hang, it works perfectly.

I've checked event logs, nothing. No SMART errors on the HDD. No bad sectors on the HDD. I've run with and without O&O Disk Defragmenter v14 in the background. Anti-virus (AVG 2011) is negative. Memtest x86 says my memory is fine. No hardware errors showing up at all. I've replaced the video card and headphones since this started (for unrelated reasons, they broke) and no effect. I've downloaded updated motherboard and onboard sound drivers from Gigabyte, no effect. I'm really at the end of my rope on this. It's been happening for a couple months now and seems like it may be getting worse; the mobo/case/memory are about 2 1/2 years old, the HDD and video card less than a year old. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the problem was in the HDD or the HDD controller somewhere, but I have no way of verifying that and don't know enough about them to even know where to start looking or what to try tweaking. Can anyone at least give me a starting point of where to look? Thanks.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3L
Processor: Intel Core2Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.00 GHz (not overclocked)
Memory: 4 GB (2x2GB) G.Skill DDR800 (not overclocked)
Sound: Onboard Realtek to a Logitech G35 USB headset
Video: Galaxy Geforce GTS 450 1 GB (problems also happened with my previous GF 8800GTS 512MB)
Case: Antec Sonata 550 Plus w/550 watt Antec power supply
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD6400AADS SATA 2.0
Peripherals: Logitech G15 USB keyboard, Logitech USB mouse, LG DVD-RW drive that's currently disconnected
Operating System: Vista x64, automatic updates from Microsoft
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More about vista second freezes
  1. Try booting your computer into safe mode, and then do your normal daily web browsing and word processing. No 3D games in safe mode as it will not run, I garantee you
  2. Replace the WD6400AADS Green hard drive. I chased the exact same problem on a coworkers computer for over 6 months. Drive tested out OK on multiple diagnostic software, replaced all hardware in his system thinking it was just an intermittent hardware error, still same freezing issue. Finally replaced the drive with a WD black edition, and problem disappeared.
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