Found the solution to all my issues finally, after consulting some friends. Turns out Visual Studio 2008 on Windows 7 would use the operating system's version of OpenGL, and when I ran it from the EXE it used the local OpenGL32.dll which was either out of date, or built for the wrong platform. So, removing this DLL fixed all framerate issues, and now runs no problem after defaulting to the operating system's OpenGL32.dll. Hopefully this helps anyone else who runs into this issue!
I would also second Qt, I think it's fantastic. There is also an extensive library available at your disposal. See: http://doc.qt.nokia.com/5.0-snapshot/qtcore.html Qt is perfectly fine for desktop programs, you will want to look into QtCreator as well if you choose to use it.