An Ontario company will be the first to sell laptop computers using Seagate Technology LLC's computer hard drives with built-in encryption technology, the drive maker said Monday.

ASI Computer Technologies of Markham, Ont., will use hard drives by the Scotts Valley, Calif., company that include a chip that automatically encrypts all data written to them on the fly, rendering it unreadable without a digital key or password.

The Momentus 5400 FDE (Full Disk Encryption) hard drive also allows all data stored on it to be instantly erased, Seagate said.

"I can't help but think that this kind of hard drive would become a standard issue on corporate laptops," said Dave Reinsel, a storage industry analyst at market research firm IDC.

Microsoft Corp. offers hard drive encryption through a feature called BitLocker in the latest version of its operating system, Vista, but it is only available in the software's enterprise and top-end Ultimate consumer editions.

Seagate says its hardware-based technology has an advantage over software-based encryption, in part because it would make it impossible to even start a computer without proper authentication.

"The drive's hardware-based full disc encryption delivers significantly stronger protection against hacking and tampering than traditional encryption approaches by securely performing all cryptographic operations and key management within the drive," the world's largest maker of computer hard drives said in a written statement.

ASI makes laptop computers under its own brand and for other PC makers.

The 2.5-inch 160 gigabyte-capacity hard drive is to include security management software by Wave Systems Corp. of Lee, Mass., to help companies use the encryption technology.

With files from the Canadian Press