I've been a satisfied user of VMWare Fusion on my Macbook Pro (v 4,1 architecture, MacOs 10.6, 6GB RAM, plenty of disk) for running Windows XP SP3 for years. I installed XP from scratch, as well as all the apps (Office, etc.), and lived happily ever after (the best Windows box I ever owned...)
I recently joined a company where the standard-issue hardware was a lackluster HP laptop running XP SP3, so I cloned it using VMWare's Convert utility and opened it on my Macbook. Performance is dismal, even with boosting the RAM allocation to 3GB for the VM.
Prime suspect is a corporate security app called SafeBoot (now owned by McAfee, I think) that provides filesystem encryption. Half the CPU is eaten by the SBClientManager.exe process. UI responsiveness is far slower than my other installed-from-scratch VM. In case it matters, I have not yet activate Win XP on the VM.
I don't want to bug my IT guys, as they want to stick to our conventional hw/sw platform. Any thoughts on how to make this new VM perform acceptably?
...the standard-issue hardware was a lackluster HP laptop running XP SP3,...I have not yet activate Win XP on the VM.
If the version of Windows XP is an HP OEM branded version, then it may be a moot point since XP won't be able to reactivate correctly running on VMware virtual hardware. (e.g.: if your System Properties control panel has an HP logo in it, then it probably won't work.)
My suggestion is that since you appear to be comfortable with installing Windows and apps by yourself, that you "talk nice" to the IT guys and see if they won't help you a bit. While they might not be able to "fully support" your environment, they may allow you access to the installers for required stuff like Safeboot. So you might be able to make a VM from scratch without any of the HP bloatware, etc. On of the remote workers at my company was able to argue her case so she is using her personal equipment, configured to be compliant with company security policies, etc. The argument was that part of the responsibility for security and maintaining that workstation was now up to the employee, rather than IT, so the waiver was allowed. If that happens to you, then you may even get a waiver for Safeboot, etc, assuming that really is causing an issue with your VM.