At a Glance
- Extremely quiet operation
- Includes backup and secure-deletion utilities
- Plastic housing could be more rugged
- Requires Windows to log in or decrypt
This top-notch drive earns points for its intuitive out-of-the-box experience and its reasonable price.
The Seagate Maxtor BlackArmor ($135 for 320GB) is a marvel of simplicity. It’s the first external hard drive with full-disk encryption–the encryption chip resides on the hard drive’s circuitry. According to Seagate, all of the data is encrypted on the drive, so even if someone removes the drive from the housing and takes away the chip set, the data is inaccessible. When you first attach the BlackArmor to a Windows PC, the drive loads a read-only partition with the setup software. Initializing the drive and setting a password takes only a minute, after which the drive loads the encrypted partition and Windows shows it as a drive letter. Thereafter, every time you plug in the drive, the autorun settings will ask you to enter the password.
The BlackArmor also features a Secure Erase option (which overwrites data areas of the drive with zeroes), as well as a backup utility.
In our recent look at encrypted portable drives, we chose this model as our Best Buy for its value–it offers one of the best cost-per-gigabyte rates we’ve seen–as well as for its simplicity and its full-disk-encryption security.