If you have an XP disc available, you may try installing that and see how it feels. OR...you could try Linux.
I think there are several issues at play:
1. You probably have experience on a newer, faster computer. That will taint your perception and exacerbate how slow this laptop performs.
2. Let's face it: you have a slow processor, running on a motherboard with slow bus speeds, with just enough slow RAM, while probably running from a 5400 rpm HDD. In fact, the CPU and RAM are the bare minimum
required to run Win7 - and Vista will react even worse. You've got a perfect storm for poor performance.
3. My above analysis assumes everything is running a peak performance. If anything is barely functioning, the situation goes from bad to dire.
Hope this helps.