I've had the same problem, and I suspect (no formal proof,
here...) that it comes from the sata drive. When trying to install 10.1 x86_64 normally, I get an error message saying "No hard drive found". I managed to install it with failsafe settings, but then the gets sluggish as hell.
Another possibility is that Beagle is doing some indexing in the background, but I guess that would show on your system's load.
As to the problem when patching SuSE, look for "SMART" in this forum, you will find plenty of interesting things...