All I have is what you supply for clues but a common failure indication for hard drives is that click of death. At the shop we could hear it and call it but here I can't hear it but take your words as clues.
-> If you wanted to test this out you could pull the HDD out and run it off some USB bootable stick for a test run. I use Ubuntu Live on USB for such tests.
My dell inspiron refuses to start up properly. I've had it for about a year and a half now, and three times I've had to bring it in for this problem to be fixed: it initially starts up, then freezes at some point in the start-up sequence. All I can do is select boot options, and nothing I've tried on there is working. it also makes a weird clicking noise when it freezes. The problem has started for me all three times by freezing up suddenly when I'm doing something, and I hear the dreaded clicking noise.