okay im so elated about my discovery and "fix" that I have to share with everyone. I dont know if this occurs with any other versions of windows besides XP, but XP through SP3 has suffered this before. anyway, i have been really frustrated with my laptop lately, and not because its a Dell , but because it has been painfully slow. however, it has decent specs, 1.6ghz Dothan 1.25gb RAM and XP SP3. at the stores, ive played with netbooks and my processor is at least 3 times faster than the atom, but it feels much more responsive. so i run through all the checks. ive checked the RAM for errors, defragged the HDD, made sure my CPU wasnt overheating and throttling, scanned for viruses, just about everything and it was still slow. after all the testing, i came to the conclusion it was the HDD because sometimes I had 10-20% CPU utilization but the machine still chugged. So I decided to hold out and get a new HDD because I figured this one is about to be toast. So I started looking around and reading reviews and benchmarks. Then I saw HD Tune. I downloaded the software and ran the test on my laptop and my read was topping out at a measly 3.5mb/sec!!! I instantly remember the reason, PIO MODE! This has happened to me before with previous XP flavors. I couldnt burn shit because Windows kept going back to PIO Mode. So i uninstalled/reinstalled my IDE drivers and BAM my speed went up to 30mb/sec! It eliminated almost all my bottlenecks. Before, when I watched a 720p video w/coreAVC (h264 software decoder) i was constantly pegged at 90-100% CPU. Now its down to 50%!! Same story with Hulu. So with all this said, check PIO Mode. If it is, you want DMA and should it ATA-2 through 6. NOTE SATA DOES NOT HAVE THIS PROBLEM.