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Hitachi Maxell is turning itself into an external hard drive supplier with a GEN branded line of products.

Maxell is best known for supplying batteries and storage media. It's now extending its brand to cover USB-connected hard drives for the SOHO and consumer markets. The loss-making Maxell company was a partially-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, but Hitachi is buying out the other shareholders in preparation, it is thought, for selling off the company. This will be part of a general restructuring effort to turn Hitachi back into a profit-making enterprise after continuing major losses.

There are three product lines in the GEN brand, all of which come in a matte black enclosure. The main GEN brand has five drive products; 2.5-inch ones with 250, 320 and 500GB capacities, and 3.5-inch drives with 1TB and 1.5TB capacities. As Hitachi's hard drive drive subsidiary Hitachi GST does not make 1.5TB drives, this indicates that that product at least is a Seagate one. The other products could be Hitachi GST products but Maxell isn't saying.

Hitachi GST has its own line of branded external drives which will now compete with Maxell's GEN products.

The MyGEN products use the same GEN drives, but with added protection facilities. Maxell backup software automatically backs up data and, when connected to the host, will continually make a copy whenever additions or changes are made to files. Users can supposedly retrieve data to its original location with a button click and can also encrypt backed up data. A third option is to backup data to a cloud facility for an additional charge.

There is also a line of MyGEN flash drives with 2, 4 and 8GB capacities and custom backup software for music, photos and general data.

The GENPro line uses the same drives again, except with a substitution of a 2TB model for the 1.5TB one, and comes with backup software from Rebit.

Rebit says its SaveMe software provides automatic and continuous backup of a PC's internal hard drive and "starts working the minute it is installed, keeping PCs continuously protected." Users don't have to configure the software, set up schedules or start backups with a button click. They can recover individual files, folders or a complete system if need be.

Instead of taking over an entire external drive completely, the software backups data to a partition leaving other disk space available for users to store other stuff, such as music, movies, podcasts and other data. This could be odd as it means that some files will be stored twice, once as native files and once as part of the automatically backed-up data set. Rebit says its SmartSave technology: "uniquely grows and shrinks the amount of historical data," so as not to have the users' own data on the drive moved off. That means that older data is simply deleted, pretty much as Apple's Mac OS X Time Machine does when its disk is full.

The Rebit software can backup a maximum of six PCs and supports Windows XP, Vista and 7. Rebit offers a SaveMe Express version for single PC Backup but this doesn't include the SmartSave technology. It OEMs its own external drive products using Seagate hard drives, possibly suggesting that Maxell is using Seagate too.

GEN-branded products in general are compatible with Windows versions later than 2000 and said to be Windows 7-ready. Mac OS X is also supported. Maxell issued no pricing or availability information. Rebit software can be obtained separately from Rebit and its channel. ®

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