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Turn it UP!!!
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I agree with Alex, reformat and start afresh, you will end up paying someone way too much to try to track down to cause, it doesn't seem to be displaying any pattern to point towards a culprit.
Did the Dell come with a "90 Day special" Office install, that might explain alittle, but certainly not the irratic behavour you have been experiencing, it normally comes up with a message asking if you want to purchase the office package.
The irratic start up points towards a harddisc error (damaged/connection) or a virus, so back to square one, reformat and reload.
I personally use
1) Avira Antivir personal
2) Spybot
3) Comodo Firewall
4) AVG free
All free and downloadable, load them up in that order, AVG will complain about another Virus protector on the system but ignore that and continue to install, so far this conbination has kept my systems safe and virus free.

Good luck
 
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