Toshiba is going after laptop users looking to retrofit a full-disk encryption (FDE) drive to their portables, announcing the new Enigma SED drive from partner Origin Storage.

Distributed by Origin Storage in the UK, the new 2.5 inch Toshiba drive will be supplied by the company in a kit specific to each laptop model. This means a mounting kit, Acronis software to clone the old drive, a hard drive cable for the transfer itself, and WinMagic’s MySecureDoc Express pre-boot authentication system which allows the new drive to present a password screen without interfering with the laptop’s BIOS.

The drive itself, which comes in three capacities of 160GB, 320GB and 500GB, is designed to enforce encryption transparently at the drive level rather than as a software layer interacting with the operating system. The encryption itself is industry-standard 256-bit AES.

Hitherto, full disk encryption has been a feature of new laptops from a limited range of vendors, generally using Seagate’s market-leading Momentus FDE range of drives. Uptake has apparently been modest. Fitting such a drive to an older machine has not been easy.

Toshiba's drive is descended from a Fujitsu product not widely sold outside Japan. Fujitsu's hard drive division was bought by Toshiba a year ago.

Given the hassle and expense – the drives cost considerably more than a conventional drive of the same capacity – is there a ready market for such a product?

According to Origin’s MD, Andy Cordial, the arrival of harsh new fines from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) could spur interest in the upgrade market among government and public sectors departments.

“The last thing they want to do is go out and buy new notebooks,” he said. The advantage of a full-disk encryption drive over disk encryption software was simply that “you can install and forget it.”

The Toshiba/Origin Storage Enigma SED drives were also a faster option than using software.

As to cost, the 160GB kit, including all software, costs £249 ($384), the 320GB costs £269, and the 500GB £299. Conclusion: buy the larger drives. The drive and upgrade kit is being demonstrated at this week’s Infosecurity Show in London and are expected to become available in June.