After I boot my computer and open a program, it works fine, after the system sits for a period of time and I try to open another icon (any and all of them), the blue busy wheel just spins and nothing happens.
Perhaps you have a problem with your computer's hard drive or RAM.
Use the memory test built-in to your computer's BIOS (do you see something like: "Press F10 to enter BIOS setup" near the beginning of the computer's boot sequence? Well, press that key! Check out the resulting menus -- don't blindly change anything you don't understand, though!
Or, download a copy of "memtest" ( http://www.memtest.org/ ) on a different computer, and either write it to a thumb drive, or burn it onto a CD, then boot your computer from that, and follow the instructions shown.
Check the hard drive -- here are some reasonable instructions: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/guide-to-using-check-disk-in-windows-vista/
After these steps, you'll at least be able to rule out problems with your hard drive and RAM.