windows 7 laptop keeps sluggish and applications keep locking up

I have an alienware m15x that I have been running windows 7 on for almost a year now.  in the past couple of months, I have been having lots of issues with the unit though.  I have reformatted, and had it sent in for service, and swapped out the video card, but I believe the issue is on the software side.  Once it boots into windows, even tasks as mundane as going to all programs can take a few minutes, and simple apps such as word 2010, or firefox are locking up.  I last reformatted around a month ago, so I am not looking to wipe the system clean again.  I also upgraded from 4gigs to 8 gigs of ram (which they said the system is compatible with) and i am running windows 7 x64 ultimate, so that should only help performance??

It seems like something is running in the background, but task manager and recourse monitor don't show any large use of memory, hdd, or cpu.  I have avast antivirus installed and running along with windows defender, and also have diskeeper running too.

I am looking for any suggested utilities to look for possible culprits causing this unstability.  I was having issues at one point with nvidia drivers, and I seem to be unable to install the latest version of the drivers from the site (as in I can't reboot after installing them), but I just got a new graphics card from alienware to replace the one that came with it.  Their support says to only use their nvidia drivers which are over a year old, but I don't see why any release that supports the 8700M GT shouldn't work correctly.

Thanks for suggestions.
Matt
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build18erAsked:
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stormytoadConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I suspect it could be a failing hard drive or bad ram.  Have you tested both of those components?

If the problems persisted and you reformatted that should rule out software as the cause.  

When the system is slow does the hard drive light stay on?  What kind of hard drive do you have installed?
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kcoectCommented:
I would uninstall Avast and any other anti-virus utilities and see if the problem goes away...  if it does, then you know who the culprit is.

When you re-formatted the laptop, before you installed anything, was the performance back to the way it originally was?  

You can use msconfig (start, run, msconfig), click on the "services" tab, then click "Hide all Microsoft Services" and disable what's left, reboot the laptop and see how it performs... (you might want to document what services you turn off)

You can use the same tool and look at what applications are launching upon start up and try turning them off as well...  

Unfortunatly, it's more of a turn this off and see how it performs one at a time (or five at a time) type of thing...

Lastly, did you download all the drivers specific for your laptop from the vendor's web site?  Even though Windows 7 has a ton of drivers that work, it's still a good idea to get any vendor specific drivers from their web site for your device (especially if there is a video and chipset driver available!).  Also make sure that your system's BIOS is currently up to date if possible.
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build18erAuthor Commented:
bad hdd. replacing and cloning with hdclone with repair option did the trick
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