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Maxtor, Linksys to unveil wireless hard drive

The two want to make it easy to add hard drives to wireless networks, even at home or in small offices.

If hard-drive maker Maxtor and networking company Linksys have their way, your external hard drive is about to become very external.

On Tuesday, the companies announced a partnership featuring a $99 Linksys device that lets an external hard drive connect to a wireless router, allowing PCs to tap into the storage and share files without any physical link to the drive.

The joint effort is geared toward small offices and homes. The latter is a crowded market, overflowing with companies pitching home-networking technology. Maxtor and Linksys--a Cisco Systems unit--are marketing products together and tout a common set of instructions for tying drives to routers with what's dubbed the "Linksys Network Storage Link."

Those common instructions reflect an attempt to make the technology easy to install. Small businesses "need stuff that's going to be really simple," said Stephen DiFranco, vice president of corporate and brand marketing at Maxtor. "They don't have an IT (information technology) department to set things up."

Bob O'Donnell, analyst at research firm IDC, said the technology seems like a miniature version of so-called network-attached storage, which refers to specialized computers that serve up files over networks and are typically found in larger companies. "It's bringing network-attached storage down from the high end of the enterprise to the small office and home," he said. "It's just a logical extension."

Products to store data and zap it around homes are proliferating as companies try to help consumers manage the digitalization of entertainment. The devices include the Mirra "Personal Server" and a new product from Apple Computer that acts as both a portable wireless base station and a way to stream music throughout the home.

The Linksys Network Storage Link connects to an external hard drive through one of two USB ports and includes a file management system, the companies said. It is designed to work with a wired or wireless network, and to work with other external drives apart from Maxtor products.

Through Sept. 30, U.S. residents who purchase a Maxtor OneTouch USB drive with the Linksys Network Storage Link can get a $20 mail-in rebate.