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Computer Failure Rate Declining

Stamford, Conn. — PC and notebook computer hardware failure rates have improved, according to a new study from Gartner, but the research firm feels there is still room for improvement.

Gartner compared failure rates from systems purchased in 2005-2006 to those bought during the two prior years. For desktop PCs, the failure rate, which Gartner defines as any problem requiring the replacement of a hardware component, improved to 5 percent, from 7 percent, for the first year of ownership. Notebooks went to 15 percent from 20 percent. The failure rate continued to improve even for older systems. The failure rate of four-year-old desktops sank to 12 percent from 15 percent, while notebooks dropped to 22 percent from 28 percent.

The falling failure rate can be attributed to PC vendors doing a better job designing and testing their units prior to shipment and heavily penalizing component suppliers who deliver substandard parts, the report said.

Gartner developed the data for the study by contacting warranty repair providers and surveying end users, including enterprise-level customers.

The Gartner study found the most common reasons for hardware problems in desktops were motherboard and hard drive failures. Motherboard quality has particularly suffered, said Leslie Fiering, Gartner’s research VP, because of the addition of integrated components. If something like the network or modem functionality on the motherboard breaks, then the entire board has to be replaced, she said.

Motherboards and hard drives were also the likely problem to crop up with notebooks, comprising between 25 percent and 45 percent of all failures. However, chassis problems like broken latches and cracked cases had a high incidence rate, along with dead displays and keyboard caps breaking off. In addition, users spilling drinks on to the system caused a number of failures.