Western Digital has launched the My Passport Essential portable storage hard drive product line, which it said, includes support for Microsoft Vista and embedded search capabilities.

The company said that the drive offers full compatibility with Vista, Exchange 2007 and Office 2007, allowing simple transfers of business and personal data over from Windows PCs to My Passport Essential.

The 320GB disk drives are currently available for $199.99, said Western Digital. The My Passport Essential hard drive family also includes 160GB and 250GB models, the company added.

The new hard drive line will eventually replace the company's WD Passport drives, a spokesman said. He declined to elaborate further on the plans for the older line, except to say that it will coexist with the new drive "for months."

Weighing less than 5 oz, My Passport Essential draws its power from a PC USB port, which eliminates the need for a separate power adapter. The drive runs enhanced Windows-based synchronisation and encryption software, enabling data to be transferred between home and work locations on PCs running Windows 2000, XP and Vista, as well as Mac OS X.

The new drive's Sync software includes embedded Google tools, such as Google Desktop Search, which can quickly locate files on external hardware; the Picasa photo organiser to manage stored photos; and the Google TaskBar for simplified Web searches, said officials.

Data stored on Western Digital's new line of personal storage hardware is protected by 128-bit encryption, which can help blunt IT fears that increasing use of portable devices increases the risk that they - and the data they carry - will be lost or stolen.

The new drive family was designed to complement Western Digital's My Book family of external drives by featuring a sleeker "book-shaped" enclosure, the company said. My Passport Essential can hold up to 91,400 digital photos, 80,000 songs, 140 hours of DVD video or 38 hours of high-definition video, it said.