Frequent crashes with CS5.5 all of a sudden.

Hi.  I've been running AE CS5.5 fine on my Pentium I7 Win7 12 gig RAM, clean system, but suddenly I'm running into frequent crashes that I'm trying to isolate.
When it happens, it occurs when I try and do a RAM preview.  It renders the frames fine, but when I inturrupt it (keypad INS key) to play what it has, it sometimes says that it can't continue... saying something went wrong with Trapcode Particular, then the Tint filter, and then some other filter.  I don't think they are actually to blame.. just victims of something else.
The system seems sluggish often, too.  Normally, it's fine, but (I would imagine) when the RAM is filling up with the previews, it sometimes acts like it's an ancient computer... very slow pause before reacting to anything.  Generally, a Purge All clears it up immediately, but I'm not sure why it is straining so often, with an I7 processor, 12 gigs of ram, and a clean system.  Wasn't doing that with any other projects, and I suspect it has something to do with this one.
I THINK it might have been triggered by my inclusion of particles (although they are hardly enough to strain the system, and I've done this before fine).  Renders fine, no crashes.  Really, only just when I hit the keypad INS key to play a RAM preview.... and that's only about half the time.  Otherwise, it's working just fine.  So, it's seemingly random, although I suspect it's something with the RAM being eaten away as frames are stored as I jump around the timeline.
I believe it wrote a diagnostic txt file somewhere, but I don't know where it put it, unfortunately.
Sometimes, even a newly started AE and project load will crash immediately when I try and preview.
Another possible clue...  I have audio files (.wavs mostly), and sometimes when I would view the waveforms, I get some sort of error there too, but it continues on just fine (showing the waveform).
I'll often get the 'AfterEffects can't continue... Contact Adobe' window, with (0::42) at the bottom.
Only other error I sometimes get is the 'AE can't continue: Damaged Item (26:311)' one... usually when I'm trying to save the crash file before it closes the app.
Any suggestions as to where to begin?  Is that log file worth looking at?  If so, where would that be?  It's only happening sometimes... otherwise, it runs just fine (and has always rendered the whole scene no problem).
Hope someone can help.  Sorry if this is yet another tediusly vague and all-to-familiar post!

That I have yet to determine.  Certainly doesn't seem to crash if I take off the effects layers, such as particles.  I have to isolate each thing and see.  It's just difficult, since it only crashes SOME of the time, so it's hard to get an obvious cause/effect.
As far as I know, I'm using the most current version of Particular.
Seems a few things are running odd.
AfterEffects definitely becomes very sluggish in its response to mouse clicks at points... an obvious delay after each action, as if it needs time to think of each action.  Seems to be a memory thing (as it's fixed with a purge), although I'm not sure why it reaches a point where AE is struggling to keep it's own interface responsive.
Still getting occasional errors when I try and view waveforms of audio layers, although it continues on fine after the error message.  The error itself is kind of vague, so of no real help.
Just did another full render test, and it does it perfectly fine every time.  Something to do with the RAM preview, it seems.  Seems RAM is acting up both in that sense (RAM preview) as well as the sluggishness AE sometimes gets into (seemingly after you have previewed and/or jumped around the timeline a lot, so (in both cases) a lot of frames have been stored.  Still not sure why it reaches a point where it's struggling.  Disk Cache is on, so it shouldn't 'run out of RAM' in that sense.  Really confused...  An I7 with 12 gigs of RAM shouldn't be struggling like that (...even though it's random and only occassional).  I was wondering if I have something configured wrong in the memory settings.

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