and now I've fitted a new hard drive I 've lost the small Thinkpad partition.
I once lost my IBM Service partition (containing Windows XP install programs) during a fresh Windows XP install using my IBM T30 Recovery CD(s). viewtopic.php?f=9&t=62150
If you have intialized your new HD properly, you will see the message...
"Reinstall Product Recovery Program into hidden area (hidden partition) 1.7 GB?"
If you do not re-intialize HD with DOS FDisk or Win XP Disk Management Utility, you will never see the message.