How long will your computer last? It’s all about the MTBF! Or is it?


A common question that computer sales, repair, service and support people hear is, “How long will this computer last me?”

The most common answer is, “It depends…”

Just what does it depend on? The quality of the product is of the highest importance, but even a very reliable device can have a shortened life if not maintained properly and it is very dependent upon the environment it is subjected to.

For instance, a typical business desktop workstation could have a lifespan of 3-5 years in a “typical” office environment. But take the temperature of the room it is in up a few degrees, or expose that same computer to dirt in the air, which coats internal parts and affects how well heat is dispersed and you could have a machine that lives half as long. Power issues are another killer of desktop computers. Failure to use a surge suppressor or UPS could allow harmful voltage spikes and sags to damage components.

This is exactly why you hear “It depends” so frequently. No two locations are the same, and even offices in the same building are different.

Let’s look at what MTBF means exactly.  MTBF is the common abbreviation for “Mean Time Between Failures” and is indicative of how reliable a product is. The higher the MTBF, the more reliable the device is.

MTBF is measured in hours, such as the hard drive from a two year old Apple Mac Book that is on my desk… Its MTBF is rated at 300,000 hours, which should be, what? 34 years? WOW! That’s amazing! In reality that MTBF is a theoretical number, meaning that if all goes well, the drive should live a long happy life. Well all did not go well, the drive is dead in a tiny fraction of the MTBF.

One thing to keep in mind is that business class computers almost always contain components which have a higher MTBF than their consumer counterparts. Business class computers also have 3 year warranties available, and sometimes longer, because the manufacturer understands that they used the best parts that were available for the money. Give a business class computer consideration if you are looking to replace an important workstation or notebook in the future.

One thing I can say is, regardless, be sure to backup your systems! Use either a physical backup like a USB drive, flash drive, or even better, something like our Servosity Online Backup Solution (free trial!) to protect your data. Going by MTBF is like saying that you will live 78 years because everyone in your family did. Don’t count on it.

So how long will that computer last you? It depends….

If you need assistance in selecting a new computer or repair of an existing one for your Greenville or Upstate business, please call upon us as we offer a wide selection of Seneca Data / Nexlink, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung, Acer, Lenova and more! 864.990.4748 or email info@homelandsecureit.com

Comments 1

  1. Good points, especially about backing stuff up before failure. I’d like to add that temperature problems can significantly decrease MTBF; for example if a system is never cleaned and dust happens to clog up fans and inhibit good airflow, higher temperatures can speed a hard drive for example to the end of its useful life. This is more of an issue perhaps in an industrial setting where a computer is exposed to more of the “elements” than just cat hair or standard household dust and debris.

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