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ASUS PC Misbehaving, Drive Read Error and the lot

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I want to be as thorough as possible, so I apologize for the length of this post. I desperately need a diagnosis for my PC. It currently has a mess of symptoms that may or may not be related, but I have done the usual testing and have had no success. Here are the symptoms and my PC info:

Windows 7 x64
4GB DDR2 RAM (upgraded, non factory)
1TB Western Digital Caviar Green (upgraded, non factory), purchased at least 2 years ago
Intel Pentium E5200 / 2.5 GHz
This PC is a few years old, but has been kept in very good condition.

The most obnoxious and perplexing is when I use XBMC for more than an hour, the hard drive activity light lights up solid and the computer freezes. After two or so minutes, I am able to control the computer again for about 30 seconds, then this repeats until I shut it off. This doesn't happen every time I use XBMC, only every third time or so. The most recent time this happened, the computer displayed a "A drive read error has occurred. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart" upon restart, and does so at every subsequent restart. This happened maybe a half-hour ago, however I am confident it will actually start up properly once I give it time to cool down, allowing me to run any tests you may give me. Additionally, I have a SATA cable that I can use to connect the HD to my laptop, just in case.

When the PC is working properly, it runs perfectly and I'll put it to sleep. After maybe 6 hours, the PC will turn back on, with no error or anything; it'll just come out of sleep. Again, this doesn't happen consistently, only maybe once of every four or so times. I don't have any keyboard or mouse connected to the PC (I use a Windows Center remote), so I'm not sure why this happens.

There are also some times where when I boot from shutdown, it will not recognize that a drive is attached. I will get a "Please insert boot disk" notice, since the disk drive is next on my BIOS boot list. Once I restart it again, however, the drive is recognized.

Attempted solutions:
I have replaced the thermal paste with Arctic Silver 5. The PC seems to work better each time I do this, but then after a few weeks returns to its old habits.
I have run chkdsk and malware scans and CCleaner, and everything is clean.
I have checked every connection internally and everything is secure.

My current thought is that it is something wrong hardware-wise with the hard drive, but I'd like to go over everything before I shell out $100 for a new one if this one is still good. And it's only about 2 years old and is in good condition, so I hope it is still good. I have also run hard drive diagnostics and it comes back without any errors.

I have exhausted my knowledge of this issue, but I truly love this computer as it is a perfect HTPC; digital surround sound, HDMI, remote control, it's small and quiet. It would mean the world if I could get it working consistently again, and I would be forever grateful.

Thank you a bunch in advance. Let me know of any other info I can give you to help.
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