Many people don't realize they can improve the performance of their hard-disks under Linux with a quick command. For this, I'm supposing you have an IDE interface.

The first thing to do is:

hdparm /dev/hda
You should see something like this:

 multcount    =  0 (off)
 I/O support  =  0 (default 16-bit)
 unmaskirq    =  0 (off)
 using_dma    =  X
 keepsettings =  0 (off)
 nowerr       =  0 (off)
 readonly     =  0 (off)
 readahead    =  8 (on)
 geometry     = NNNN/NNN/NNN, sectors = NNNNNNN, start = 0

The line that interests us is the one that says:

using_dma    =  X

If X is "1" chances are there's little room for improvement. A value of "0" however, means that your system is not using DMA to access the hard-drive. You can obtain a significant performance improvement of up to 4X with a simple command.

Try first:

hdparm -t /dev/hda
This will tell you how many MB/sec (megabytes per second) your drive can transfer. Now, do:

hdparm -d 1 -k 1 /dev/hda

and repeat the

hdparm -t /dev/hda
command to measure the performance difference.

In my case, the transfer-rate jumped from 4MB/sec to 17MB/sec. A worthy increase.

After that, all you have to do it to put the command on your rc.local file so it get executed every time the system boots.