Dell has become the latest and largest vendor to offer laptops featuring Seagate’s full disk encryption hard drive, the 2.5 inch Momentus 5400 FDE.2.

The drive was first announced after its extended gestation only last March, but that was inside laptops made by clone vendor, ASI. Dell is to sell the high-security drives in its new Latitude D630 and D830 models from this week.

The groundbreaking Momentus FDE.2 – for once this marketing cliché is probably about right – ranks as the first laptop hard drive integrating the technology to make it to the mass market. Although hard drive encryption is a common technology, the Momentus integrates the technology at hardware and drive firmware level, making it both transparent, extremely hard to crack, and because of built-in acceleration, faster than add-on encryption.

In all other respects, from the user’s point of view, the Momentus FDE.2 is a conventional hard drive which requires a master passphrase to be set for boot-up access. Dell is to sell the drive with the Embassy Trust Suite from software company Wave Systems, also promoted by Seagate during the drive’s soft-launch in March. This allows IT admins to manage laptops using the drives, accessing such features as password recovery, and data backup of encrypted drives

“Dell is at the forefront of notebook security because it ranks as a top concern for customers in an environment where more data is produced by an increasingly mobile work force,” said Dell’s Margaret Franco.

“The industry-first solution we’re announcing today adds to our multi-pronged approach to security that delivers an ironclad assurance of protection.”

Seagate and Dell hope that despite adding cost to a laptop – not yet specified on the company website - businesses will jump at the chance of hard drive security in a way, thus far, they have not. Full disk encryption systems still have the reputation for being awkward to manage, difficult to use, and for slowing down the PC.

Balanced against this will be the now-routine security scares caused by the loss of theft of laptops, containing important data that turned out as not-encrypted in any way.

Seagate has produced a white paper [PDF], explaining the drive technology on its website.