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Maxtor works to simplify data backup

The hard-drive maker releases a line of external drives with a new feature designed to make backing up files a one-touch process.

Hard-drive maker Maxtor wants to transform the pedestrian activity of backing up files into something racy.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company has developed a new feature designed to let computer users back up files, folders and drives with the touch of a button. The feature, OneTouch, is built in to a new line of external hard drives, the Personal Storage 5000 family. Backup starts when a user presses a button on one of the drives. The units come with built-in USB 2.0/1.1 and FireWire interfaces, along with 3.5-inch hard drives, the same type used in desktop PCs.

Maxtor's development of the feature reflects the growing need for hard-drive makers to explore new niches in their ultra-competitive market. The business increasingly yields slimmer margins despite rocketing drive capacities, and several big name companies have expressed their disenchantment. Fujitsu has abandoned the field, and IBM has finalized plans to spin off its hard drive business in a joint venture with Hitachi.

Manufacturers have been developing new technologies and strategies to set themselves apart from one another. IBM announced a "tag 'n seek" technology for its desktop drives to improve performance, and the three major hard-drive makers, Seagate, Maxtor and Western Digital, last month cut back on warranties of some drives to save costs.

Anna Jen, Maxtor's senior director of retail marketing, said OneTouch was initially developed at Quantum, before that company's hard-drive business was acquired by Maxtor in early 2001. She added that Maxtor had streamlined the original technology.

The Personal Storage 5000 products are compatible with Macs and PCs and come with Dantz Retrospect Express software, which allows consumers to choose which files to backup and how frequently. Files aren't compressed, Jen said, because "We give you plenty of storage."

Jen added that according to Maxtor research, the two biggest obstacles to backing up files are convenience and expense. So the company looked to make the process faster and cheaper than the competing Zip and CD-RW technologies.

The Personal Storage 5000 family consists of three external drives, the 5000XT, 5000DV and the 5000LE. The $399.95 5000XT comes with a 250GB hard drive and FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces. The 5000DV costs $299.95 and comes with a 120GB hard drive and FireWire and USB 2.0 interfaces. The 5000LE includes an 80GB hard drive, USB 2.0 and 1.1 interfaces and costs $199.95. All the drives are currently available.