I've got a 27" dual-core iMac of the generation before the current one. HDD is 2 TB, RAM is 8 GB. I've got Aperture 3 installed and updated, with a photo library totaling 180 GB.
With increasing frequency, Aperture fails to launch. The icon bounces for a while in the dock (maybe about 30 seconds) and then stops. I have iStat Menus installed, and I see no real change in system activity while the icon is bouncing. If I open Activity Monitor, I see the Aperture process listed, and I have to force quit it. Once this happens, whether I force quit Aperture while it's bouncing or afterwards from Activity Monitor, things just don't behave; other applications fail to launch in the same way. If I try to restart after failing to launch Aperture, I get a blue screen with an activity indicator that never goes away.
I've also had iTunes freeze, and it will often lock up the whole operating system, so that absolutely nothing responds besides moving the mouse. This requires a hard restart to resolve. It's a moderately sizeable iTunes library that serves as the source for media played on an AppleTV (latest generation) elsewhere in the house.
I also recently imported a lot of new footage into iMovie '09, and Spotlight has been continuously indexing since. That was several days ago, and I see nothing in iStat Menus to indicate that the index process is doing anything; the Hard Drive IO section is as active as it is when the computer is idle. The last time I tried to update my Time Machine backup, it spent several hours in the "Calculating Changes" status before I stopped it.
I've tried repairing the Aperture database and repairing permissions and the Macintosh HD, to no avail. My best guess is that something is wrong with the directory structure, and I'm going to have to back everything up and reinstall the OS from scratch. But is there a simpler solution? Anyone have any ideas? Any utilities I can use that are more advanced than Disk Utility at finding HDD issues, physical or not?
UPDATE 6/3/2011: I ran DiskWarrior's file and folder utility on my drive last night, and it found that iPhoto's mosaic plist was corrupt. I moved it out of ~/Library/Preferences to my desktop and pulled up System Preferences, hoping to get the Mosaic screensaver working. After I selected the Desktop and Screen Saver pref pane, the whole system locked up and I had to force restart. I also tried renaming my Aperture library and launching Aperture to see if it was a library problem, and it still bounced forever and then stopped, while still appearing as a process in Activity Monitor. And I noticed while renaming the library that its size showed up as about 600 MB, when I know it's supposed to be over 180 GB. I'm going to boot into DiskWarrior and run its directory repair, then reinstall Aperture and hope for the best.