Slow iMac and Time machine won't recognize iMac hard drive

I have an older iMac (2.16GHz Intel) that is upgraded to OSX10.6.7.  Recently it has been running very slow (although it did not seem to correlate with any particular install that I know of).  I have looked at the Activity Monitor and cannot find anything that is consuming vast amounts of memory (although I can't say that I really know what I'm looking for exactly, just no high numbers).  I did a Safe Boot and it is still really slow there (EXAMPLE of slow is taking several minutes to open a program or taking 27 hours to download my pictures (which only took 13 minutes on my MacBook)).  I know my iMac could use more memory (1G), but the slow problem is there even if only running one program.  I can't find a particular pattern to it, it just hangs up and then comes back most of the time.  It did however start shutting itself down recently.  I finally got into disk utility (I've been trying to run disk utility and it usually goes into an eternal spin that I can't even force quit - have to hard boot).   So from disk utility I ran verify disk in first aid - it says "the volume Macintosh HD appears to be ok."  I"m not sure what else I'm supposed to do in here either. So my first question is Does anyone have any other suggestions for the slowness? Second, in the meantime I'm desperately trying to back up my data on the time machine that I stupidly have never set up as a back up.  I can manually put files one at a time over there, but if I try to use it as a time capsule (system preferences, time capsule on) my hard drive does not show up as one of the options????  My external drive and the data that is already on the time capsule show up, but not my iMac hard drive. So my second question is How do I get my time machine to see my hard drive or is there another way to get my files to move over there? I realize I'm in trouble, any help would be greatly appreciated.  I've tried to provide as much info as possible.  Maybe there is something obvious I'm missing.

My own response, or rather an update: I took the computer up to the Genius Bar - my hard drive is bad.  They are going to try to rescue my data.  For those of you reading this with a similar problem, make an appointment and go to the Apple Store if you can.  Mike, my personal "genius" for this encounter, said that stressing the machine when the hard drive is going bad just risks damaging it more.  If you potentially have a hardware issue, take it and let them determine what is wrong.  They have tools and diagnostics most of us wouldn't know how to use if we read about them here - and they have ways of retrieving data (I hope) that most of us do not have.  Please note that disk utility said my hard drive was ok, but the diagnostics they did showed that in fact my hard drive was much less than ok, but it was still "mounting" hence the disk utility reporting it was ok.  It is over an hour drive for me to get to the Apple store, and I only wish I had gone sooner.

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