I found the fix, and it's so cool and fast that I have to pass it along to others. First, I'd just like to say that I've learned today that this problem is more prevalent one might imagine. Windows is SO sneaky, with respect to how it changes your DMA transfer mode progressively lower until it is finally locked in the slowest of PIO modes, that most are completely unaware it's even happened! Meanwhile, their system is running like a tortise instead of the hare it once was, as running in the PIO Mode causes a host of issues/problems.
The site I found the fix on, right at the top of the page, is: http://winhlp.com/node/10
. They provide an in-depth explanation of the problem and a few different ways to fix it:
(1) You can download a very small program in Visual Basic, which will reset your drive to DMA on next reboot. This was my choice. After downloading, viewing it in Notepad, and running Norton on the file, I ran the fix in mere seconds. Upon reboot my IDE Drive is running in Ultra DMA Mode 5!! FINALLY, my system is screaming again.
(2) They offer step-by-step manual instructions for those who have any fears that the program could be malevolent, plus a couple other options.
Anyone having problems with a "slow" computer, or problems with their DVD burner (which seemingly causes this more often than a HD) ought to check out this setting on their system. One final note, laptops seem to be more prone to this, since going into and coming out of Standby Mode can cause the errors, which in turn causes Windows to continually ratchet down the DMA Mode settings into the slow (antique) PIO Mode -- and after it hits bottom, it stays there.
This was a Godsend for me. Hope it helps someone else.