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Gnome very slow and accessing HDD constantly

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http://www.linuxquestions.org – Hi. I just got a fresh Debian squeeze install done on an older laptop. I used a lenny CD to get the machine running and it died half way through the installation. I fixed it and got gnome to run just fine as root. After that, I upgraded to squeeze and now the machine runs too slow to do anything with when gnome starts. It just sits with the HDD access flickering constantly. I let it sit for a few hours like this before I pulled the plug. It works just fine if I run in terminal only mode. Not sure what is wrong. Also, I can only seem to log in as root. My personal account says bad user name or (HowTos)