|"....the laptop gets really hot right under the HD."|
It should NOT get hot there.
The hard drive is probably failing and that could account for all of your other mentioned problems.
Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:
(thanks to Dan Penny for this link:)
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities
If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibilty, on another computer if you need to.
If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.
If it does NOT test okay, the warranty on laptop hard drives is usually 3 years.
I'm assumming you have NOT changed which ram you have installed, or fiddled with the ram, since the computer last worked properly.