Three major components are most important in determining your system's overall performance: the CPU, memory, and hard disks. Chapter 1, "Optimizing System Architecture Usage," described some steps you can take to optimize CPU performance. Optimizing memory performance is fairly straightforward—you add RAM to the computer when it doesn't have enough memory, pick the fastest type of RAM your computer supports, and don't run extraneous programs. Optimizing disk performance, though, is a tricky subject—tricky enough that it deserves an entire chapter.

This chapter begins with a look at basic disk technologies—the hardware that's used to connect disks to computers. Your choice of interface can have profound effects on your system's disk performance, and in some cases a fairly inexpensive hardware upgrade can go a long way toward improving overall system speed. This chapter then proceeds to a look at how you can optimize disk performance through software means, including tweaking disk driver settings and modifying partition layout. (Chapter 12, "Filesystems and Files," further examines this topic by covering the merits and problems associated with specific filesystems.) This chapter concludes with a look at removable media—floppies, Zip disks, CD-Rs, and so on.

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