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If your PC has experienced physical trauma your harddisk may be damaged, causing it to use longer time reading/verifying data.
The first thing you might try is to defragment the drive. After being used for a while, files may be spread over the disk in small pieces causing it to take a longer time to read. (Compare it to spreading the pages of a book all over the house - it will take time to collect each page when you read the book)
In XP this is located under Control panel -> Performance and Maintenance -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> (Disk defragmenter in the tree menu to the left)
You can also try to run some anti-adware software. If your computer is infected with such it may be slowed down conciderably.
Another thing is to disable programs that you don't really use. Lots of them show up as icons in your system tray, and they take resourcesalthough you may not be using them. If you don't use them on a daily basis, disable them and start them manually only when you need them.