Possible hard drive problems...trying to backup.

I have recently been having problems with my iMac. It was acting very slow and would have frequent spinning beach balls while doing pretty much anything. I know that my hard drive has been getting pretty full lately (about 11.5GB left of 250GB HD). Anyway went to restart the computer a week or so ago and it got stuck on the blue screen. Tried again a few times and would get stuck on either gray or blue screen. I then started the computer up with the startup disk and and repaired the permissions and did a check of the HD which said that it didn't need any repairs. I then did an archive and install of the OS. I restarted the computer and it took awhile but it did start up. I was able to verify that my stuff was still on the HD. I tried transferring some of my files to an external HD and had some success. Seemed that it would transfer so much (700ish Mb) then stop and hang. I decided it was time to take it to the Mac Genius Bar and they were able to find and run disk utility on my HD with the same results. He told me to go home and use disk utility to create a disk image of the hard drive and save it to my external HD. I tried to do that twice now and it seems to work until just before the end of the progress bar. I get a message that says that it is unable to create the image file because of I/O errors (or something like that). Am I doing something wrong or am I just out of luck. I need to get some of the HD (hopefully) and was dumb enough to not make a backup sooner. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Something to try:
Open Disk Utility (Applications > Disk Utility)
Select your external HD on the left side of the Disk Utility window
Check the partition map scheme, near the bottom of the Disk Utility window
If it is not GUID (assuming you have an Intel iMac), consider repartitioning your HD to GUID. The Windows partition scheme on many external HDs. FAT 32, often has problems accepting large data transfers from Mac-partitioned hard drives.

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