IBM has barely made mention of a huge technical problem with its latest high-end ThinkPad laptops that can see the hard drive suddenly fail with complete loss of all data.

Details of the problem in the R50, R50p, T41 and T41p laptops (which contain the Hitachi Travelstar 60GB hard drive) are only just becoming widely known, despite the fact that IBM posted an official warning with patches on 4 March - over a fortnight ago.

IBM describes the patches it provides as "mandatory" but it remains far from clear just how many customers have been warned. What is known is that the "early reliability issues in some drives" that IBM refers to have seen numerous individuals and companies landed with dead computers, often with no means of getting at the data previously contained on them.

Big Blue has offered to fix dead drives if sent to them but has so far refused to take any liability for lost data or pick up the costs of data recovery. The laptops in question are at the very high-end of the market and are commonly used by highly mobile business people.

The faulty hard drive in question is model HTS726060M9AT00, with ASM part number 92P6550 and FRU part number 92P6551. Full details about how to discover whether this is your hard drive, where to download the patch and, most importantly, how to install it before it "may not be usable anymore" are here.