This has happened to me so much the past couple of years. I am working along and then have to wait for the computer to finish something. I look at the Task Manager and see the processor is hardly busy, but the green light indicating hard drive activity quickly blinks at me. The speed of the computer is bound to the slow, slow hard drive and not the processor. When will they learn?
I sit at a computer now which has a stock Dell hard drive in it. Such a hard drive is like the Seagate Barracuda with 40gb of storage space and a 2mb cache for $56. In comparison, they could install another drive with 320gb of storage and 16mb cache at a cost of $99. That $40 investment would dramatically cut down on the delays.
Last night I installed the .NET 3.0 runtime. It took less than 10 minutes to finish. I also did it inside one of my virtual machines so there it will automatically be a little slower than usual, but the hard drive has the 16mb cache which makes all the difference. Today at work it has taken over 20 minutes so far. It has a pathetic 2mb cache.
What I run at home is a set of virtual instances with most of them hosted outside my laptop on a fast external drive running in a drive enclosure which is connected to the computer using FireWire. (read why)
If you do not have such a setup yet, I strongly suggest getting it. For the $100 hard drive and $40 enclosure, you will have a much faster system so you can be much more productive. And if you host your virtual environment on the external drive, it has the added benefit of making your environment highly portable.