Momentus 5400 FDE.2: Data Encryption On-a-Drive

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Seagate's new Momentus 5400 FDE.2 is the first hard drive in our storage test lab with a built-in hardware encryption based on an AES algorithm. It comes in capacities of at up to 160 GB, looks and behaves like any other 2.5" hard drive, and performs very much like its regular brother, the Momentus 5400.3. The installation of the FinallySecure software is smooth, well-documented and can certainly be mastered even by less experienced users. All you need to remember is to change users and passwords using the included software, which controls access to the encrypted data partition by routing the boot process through a small boot partition.

The Momentus 5400 FDE.2 has the potential to offer important added security value by integrating well with existing platforms. However, the software does not yet work with all chipsets - Seagate provides compatibility information in its system integrator guide - and support for Windows Vista does not yet exist.

In the end, we were left with a mixed impression. The product is fast enough, though not capable of competing with the latest 2.5" hard drives at up to 250 GB, not to mention 7,200 RPM drives or Flash-based hard drives. Everyday work with the Momentus 5400 FDE.2 is smooth, and the only handicap is the slower boot process, which we found to still be tolerable.

At this point, Seagate can offer maximum data security in an environment that is transitioning from one operating system to the next (XP to Vista), and where security is often left to large system builders such as Dell. The FDE drive is a step ahead, but it is only suitable for critical systems or data. Businesses should seriously consider the tradeoffs, which are acceptable. As an enthusiast with little business-critical data, I would rather go for a faster and/or larger notebook hard drive, and pay attention to securing my important data manually. That said, I don't belong to the target audience of this product anyway...

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