Gradual freeze after Gnome login with Ubuntu both 11.04 and 11.10
I am currently running OpenSuse live from a CD on my Samsung QX310 laptop. I installed Ubuntu as soon as I got this computer and until recently it has worked fine. I have a 200gb '/home' partition and a couple of system partitions for trying out distros. I have been using Ubuntu for a few years casually in place of Windows (which I can no longer face) and have bothered to learn hopelessly little about commands etc.
For probably a couple of weeks my computer would hang more and more frequently while I was using, for example, Firefox on it (Ubuntu 11.04) and the LED indicator for the disk would stay lit for a minute or however long it took before returning to 'normal'.
A few days ago it started to freeze up completely not long after logging in to Gnome. I found that if I was quick I could switch to the command line with ctrl+alt+F1 with a little wait. It endlessly repeats a regular few lines of numbered messages which I don't understand and which make it difficult to see what I type with the delay. I can sometimes proceed to reboot with ctrl+alt+delete or restart GDM to bring the login screen before it becomes too choked.
I suspected it was something to do with my user account or the /home partition so I tried checking the partition for errors (and a number of times) and creating a new user account. Apparently the filesystem is clean and although at first Gnome worked fine under another account, I soon found it was quickly developing the same symptoms (and is already unusable).
I then tried installing Ubuntu 11.10 (but reluctantly because I like Gnome 2.x) on another partition and tried Unity on both versions to find the same problem. I think I isolated the problem to my Home partition when I found using the guest account worked absolutely fine.
I also remember that with the new user account the problem may have been triggered or accelerated by using Nautilus with Home partition.
I tried booting a couple of live CDs to find one that would connect to the Internet so I could temporarily install a distro with the Home folder on the system partition. When I booted OpenSuse, the first thing it warned me was that my HDD might be failing! Disk Utility says that it has many bad sectors and that I should backup and replace it; it's less than a year old! Could this be the cause of the initial problem or simply be a corruption by the computer being turned off cold when it freezes with the disk locking up?
I am no longer tempted to try partitioning or installing anything before reformatting the HDD or determining whether it is still physically healthy.
Does anyone have a suggestion for me? Thanks in advance!