Windows 7

confirmed. it was the video card driver. that solved the fan issues right away.

rather than dealing with vista again, i decided to just go ahead and do the windows 7 upgrade. it came free with the purchase of my pc from dell. it shipped with vista, but they sent me the upgrade. i went for 2.5 years ignoring it because everything was working fine on vista.

that's not to say it shipped that way. it took a lot of tweaking and hacking and such to make vista perform in an acceptable way. but finally it did.

it was my own fault for trying to do the windows and avast updates at the same time. i shoulda known better.

but in a way it was kind of fortuitious. the whole mess prompted me to do the windows 7 upgrade i'd been ignoring.

it's kinda interesting how different windows 7 is. i haven't done anything at all to it and it's much better.

this must be how people who get their first mac feel.