I'll consider cleaning the computer out just as a matter of maintenance but I'm certain it isn't a hardware issue. The machine is dual booted with Windows 7 and I have no such issues with that. If Windows running Gimp, Picasa, Chrome and a few other programs can't work the hardware to the overheating point I certainly doubt Mint would. I have had computers overheat due to dust accumulation and fan failures and this doesn't act at all that way.
I've experimented with other distros without any similar trouble so I'm almost convinced that it's a bug within the Mint 14 system that is causing the thing to skip steps or somehow fail to boot all the desktop components. If I hit F1 for help Firefox comes up instantly and runs without any problems so I believe Mint is actually running but just not booting the icons and panel.
The only reason I posted in the newbie questions is because I am a newbie when it comes to command line work and a few other aspects of Linux and was hoping that if a programming related answer came forth it would be in newbie terms I could understand and follow.
One common denominator that could possibly be part of the problem is that I was trying to install "Dropbox" on Mint. I've downloaded the software from the Dropbox site and installed it only to have it fail, I have used the package manager in Linux and tried both the Nemo and Nautilus Dropbox versions and I have tried to install it via command line instructions, it always fails. I'm beginning to suspect that removing the Dropbox after it fails to work may somehow be affecting the files Mint needs during boot up. Just how or why it could be affecting them is a question I have been unable to figure out on my own.
As I may have mentioned I have seen other posts that describe similar problems with missing icons and the panel but in all the cases I have read through there has been no solution posted that had a lasting effect for anyone.
I've downloaded Mint 13 Mate as well as the Cinnamon version and plan to run those from USB until I decide which one I like better. If I haven't ironed out the frustration with Nadia 13 in a while I'll probably install one of the Maya 13 ones and see if the problem is there as well.
My main computer = HP P6240f, Intel Core 2 quad CPU, Q8300 2.5GHz, 8 Gig Ram, 64 bit. Display adapters intel G45/G43 Express Chipset, Atheros 802.11 a/b/g/n dual band network module.