Anyways, everything seemed to be fine on the second PC for quite some time until one day it froze just like the other one.
For the next month or so, I just tried to work around the problem by saving often, but then the problems seemed to intensify more and more. Now, I had two almost identical machines with the same problem. At first, I thought it was because of my hard drives. They both seemed to report some S.M.A.R.T. issues so I went ahead and swapped out the hard drives in one machine with some other spare ones. I spent a couple of days reinstalling everything and getting my development environment back up. It seemed ok at first, but after starting up Visual Studio 2008, *BAM*, freeze.
So now I know it wasn't the hard drive. Next, I figured it was possibly the ram. I've never had ram go back on me before, but I went ahead and grabbed MemTest and ran it for a day to see if that was the cause. Almost 24 hours of running it and 0 errors. It wasn't the memory either...
At this point, I'm really aggravated since I can't get anything done since the freeze only happens with Visual Studio and I spend the amjority of my day working in Visual Studio. I never had the freeze trigger from movies or games or music, so it was really becoming a nightmare.
I decided to check the video card next. I was using an old ATI 3870, but I didn't really think it would be the problem since playing intensive video games never locked up the PC. I took it out and enabled my onboard graphics, a HD 4200 chipset. Lo' and behold, I start up Visual Studio and it freezes again!
This time though, I got a nice BSOD after the freeze referencing the ATI video driver. I'd never gotten that error before but it mentioned an endless loop error code. I had not removed my ATI Catalyst drivers before trying the integrated graphics so I went ahead and uninstalled it. After I rebooted, I installed the default drivers for the integrated graphics and attempted to start Visual Studio 2008.
Following the next logical step in this process, I reinstalled my 3870 but choose an older 9.X version of the Catalyst drivers. I started up Visual Studio 2008 once again and got no freezes! I then uninstalled the 10.X drivers on my other development PC and installed the 9.X ones and retested the same way.
Yay, problem solved! (for now, I think)
I still have to do more time consuming regular use testing, but at least now it seems the problem has been fixed. I simply can't believe running the latest AMD drivers caused such a horrible problem like this. I thought it was software related at first, but I never thought about graphics drivers being the culprit. I use Visual Assist X so I was beginning to think it was the problem until I had uninstalled it and still got the same freezes. I also tried different anti-virus and other software I thought might have done it, but I always got the same freeze each time.
This has been by far the worst PC problem I've ever had since you have to litterally check *everything* hardware and software just to try and track down the problem. At least now I know to check for downgrades first before going crazy reinstalling everything over and over and messing with hardware.