To increase the speed and performance of your Linux box you may want to consider doing the following:
Open a console and type su to get root privileges, then type:
hdparm -t /dev/hda
This command runs a benchmark on your drive, make a note of the Mb per second, then open the /etc/sysconfig/harddisks file with a text editor and uncomment the following lines (uncomment by removing the hash mark from the begining of the line):
Next, save, exit and then run the benchmark command again "hdparm -t /dev/hda" and compare the results to the previous one.
Note: I'm running Mandrake 8.0 and it was necessary to tweak the drive to get a good disk reading, when I installed 8.1 I noticed that the tweaks were already there and it was not neceasarry to edit the /etc/sysconfig/harddisks file.
You can also tweak the hard drive manually with hdparm commands, for example:
hdparm -c3 -d1 /dev/hda
For more info: man hdparm