Report: PCs Getting More Reliable

PC vendors have reduced hardware annual failure rates (AFRs) by approximately 25 percent in the past two years, but there is still room for improvement, according to a benchmark study by Gartner.

The research firm defines a hardware failure as any repair incident that requires a hardware component to be replaced. The component can be as trivial as a notebook latch or as significant as a motherboard.

While the good news is that desktop PC and notebook PC hardware AFRs have declined, the bad news is that notebook AFRs still range from 15 percent to 20 percent throughout the life of the system.

“The idea that electronics get more reliable over time is not astounding. Among other things, there’s more integration,” Roger Kay, principal analyst for Endpoint Technologies Associates, told TechNewsWorld. “A higher degree of integration means a lower failure rate.”

Good News, Bad News

Regardless of how few and far between the failures are, companies would benefit by tracking PC performance, according to Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner.

“Once chief financial officers become aware of PC failure rates, especially in enterprises that purchase thousands of PCs each year, there will be extra pressure placed on chief information officers to spot problems and hold their PC supplier responsible,” Fiering said. “CFOs will want assurances that the equipment they finance is not going to result in downtime for their employees.”

Motherboard Failure

For desktop systems, motherboards and hard drives are the two largest sources of failures. The number of motherboard replacements has been rising over time as more components are integrated, according to Gartner. Parts such as network interface cards or modems can no longer be swapped out. If either of these fails, a new motherboard is required.

“For notebooks, screen breakage used to be the single largest source of failure,” Fiering said. “However, over time, notebook manufacturers have improved design significantly to reduce screen breakage by adding structural rigidity to the notebook casing and screen bezel, as well as by providing a greater clearance between the screen and the keyboard when the system is closed.”

Defining the Culprits

Currently, the top sources of notebook failures on systems less than two years old are the following:

  • Motherboards and hard drives — tied for first place, each accounting for between 25 percent and 45 percent of total hardware failures;
  • Chassis, including latches, hinges, feet and case cracks; and
  • Keyboards, with keycaps falling off or getting discolored, and spilled drinks seeping under the keyboard screens.

“You have to put these reliability figures up against the declining price of these items. You are getting higher reliability at lower costs,” Kay remarked. “That’s a good deal for consumers.”

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