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It seems that all disk operations are 50x slower. Reboot time = 15 minutes. Dekstop freezes every time disk accessed.

Is there anything I can do? The machine is virtually unusable. This has been going on for 3 days now.

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Have you tried making a new user yet? System Prefs/Users groups/new user. Log out of current user, log into new user. This is a simple first step to sorting hardware/software/user account issues. –  Richard May 12 '12 at 9:51

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Have you tried booting from the install disc and running the disk utility? Once you get booted from the disc you can go to the menu and start the disc utility.

You can run verify disk to make sure it isn't a problem with the drive.

You can also check the permission's on the disk to see if that is the issue.

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