IBM gets flak for 'quiet' fix of faulty ThinkPad hard disks

IBM has issued a 'mandatory' firmware upgrade for an technical problem that can result in data loss on particular hard disks in certain ThinkPads. Some customers say that's not enough

IBM has issued a patch to fix a problem with Hitachi hard disks on some models which appears to have caused data loss.

The firmware upgrade is for several models that use a particular 60GB Hitachi hard disk. IBM is calling the patch a "mandatory" firmware upgrade to fix "early reliability issues in some drives."

IBM was not immediately available for comment, but one customer reacted with concern to what he saw as a "quiet" release of the upgrade for a serious problem. IBM posted the fix on 4 March, but it is unclear whether -- and if so how -- the company has told customers about the issue. Certainly for the customer who contacted ZDNet UK, any warning came too late.

"The drives are failing without warning and when they fail they are entirely dead -- not even appearing in the BIOS listing of available boot devices," said the customer. "My company has had a considerable number of drives fail and has only been able to recover data on 50 percent of them, even after sending them to a disaster recovery service at considerable expense."

But what really appeared to rankle is the fact that "IBM is not offering customers any assistance in data recovery. They are simply offering to replace the drives, requiring customers to send them the dead drive back, which they say they will repair and sell as refurbished."

Neither IBM nor Hitachi were immediately available for comment, but according to its page containing the upgrade, the problem affects ThinkPad models R50, R50p, T41, T41p that have the Hitachi 60GB 7200 rpm hard disk drive, model HTS726060M9AT00, ASM part number: 92P6550, FRU part number: 92P6551.

As the page notes, owners of the relevant ThinkPad models can check whether their system needs the upgrade by doing the following:

  • Click Start, select Settings, select Control Panel, then double-click the System icon.
  • Click the Hardware tab, then click Device Manager.
  • Open the Device Manager
  • Expand the Disk Drives section to view all hard disk drives in the system, and look for a drive model number that reads HTS726060M9AT00.

Click here to go to the IBM Web site for more information.