June 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

PC failure rates: better, but still room for improvement

You can’t shop if you can’t log on. PC hardware failure rates are down 25% over the last two years, but reliability isn’t 100%, a Gartner study finds.

E-commerce sites are bending over backwards to improve usability – but that won’t matter to the consumers who can’t even get online from their PCs. While desktop and notebook PC hardware failure rates are down 25% over the past two years, the devices still have a ways to go in terms of reliability, according to a new study from Gartner Inc.

The annual failure rate for notebooks still ranges from 15% to 20% during the life of the system, according to Gartner. Three years ago, notebook annual failure rates averaged 20% in the unit’s first year, climbing to 28% in the third year. Desktop annual failure rates have dropped from 7% in year one and 15% in year four to 5% in year one and about 12% in year four.

The two largest sources of failure in desktop PCs were hard drives and motherboards. For notebooks, screen breakage, once the largest source of failure, has been replaced by failures of motherboards and hard drives, with each accounting for about 25% and 45% of total hardware failures.

PC manufacturers have taken steps to improve reliability, notes the study report, with measures such as increasing design and system testing, increasing component qualification, and raising the penalty to component suppliers for component failure. A key driver of improvements over the long term will be users taking care to notify the vendor of any failures. “Users need to track their PC failure rates and hold their PC suppliers accountable,” says Lelie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner.


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