Obviously this is only a suggestion and doesn’t take into account more advanced hardware options- if you have enough physical hard disks for a RAID5 array then I think it’s worth sacrificing the suggestions below for RAID5 (where your 3 disks become one, losing any option of moving the virtual memory to another hard disk).
Configuration 1- single hard disk.
It’ll depend on your OS, but for Windows XP I would have two partitions; a 30GB partition for XP, and the remaining space for your data (photos, saved games, office documents etc).
Configuration 2- 2 x hard disks.
Pretty much as above, but dedicate 1 HD to Windows XP and the other to your data, but move the swap file (virtual memory- see "Virtual Memory" section below) to the second hard disk; this should speed up your PC slightly (and "slightly" means probably in the realm of nano- or milli- seconds, not whole seconds).
To reconfigure virtual memory on windows XP (possible also Windows 2000 and Vista), follow these instructions (also as shown in the attacehd image).
- Right click "My Computer"
- Choose the "Properties" option
- Once the "System Properties" page is shown, choose the "Advanced" tab
- Choose the "Performance" > "Settings" button
- When the "Performance Options" page is displayed, choose the "Virtual memory" > "Change" button
- You should see a list of drives/ partitions listed in the page now displayed; by clicking on a drive/ partition and the "Custom size" radio button you can alter the size of the virtual memory on different drives-setting the virtual memory on one drive to 0MB (effectively turning it off) and moving it to another drive. This way you can move the virtual memory available to XP to a different physical drive- so if drive C: is one physical hard drive and drive D: is another physical drive, set the size of the virtual memory on drive C: to 0 MB and the size on drive D: to roughly twice the amount of physical memory you have (e.g. 3072 MB for 1.5GB of RAM; 8192 MB for 4GB of RAM).
Another tip is to fix the size of the virtual memory to a certain amount- so instead of setting the custom size to between 2048-3072, just set both sizes to 3072-3072. This means Windows won’t have to adjust the size of the virtual memory while it’s running- it sets of block of disk space when the PC starts and can just fill it up as needed without having to adjust the size of the file it uses as virtual memory.
But a word of warning; only adjust the virtual memory if you have a different physical drive available. I think it might make things worse (slower) if you set virtual memory on a different partition of the same physical drive as the drive will have to work harder to use the virtual memory by switching from the operating system partition to the virtual memory partition.