Gartner, an IT research firm, released a report today showing notebook annual failure rates (AFRs) have fallen over the past couple years, but not as much as they should have. Current AFRs for notebooks are 15% in year one, climbing to 22% in year 4 of ownership; compared to 20% and 28% for systems purchased in 2003-2004.
Gartner 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 fried motherboard. The general pattern is for newly purchased systems to have an early shakeout period with high failure rates that drop back to lower levels after 60 to 90 days.
Systems Purchased in 2005-2006 Systems Purchased in 2003-2004
Year 1 15 20
Year 4 *22 28
Notebooks used to suffer most from damaged LCD panels, but over time, screen damage has fallen due to improved designs. Reinforced notebook lids and improved clearance between the keyboard and screen, when closed, are two core factors contributing to longer screen life. LCD panels are generally the most expensive part of any notebook, so it’s of little surprise that the most effort has gone into protecting this part.
Currently, the top sources of notebook failures on systems less than two years old are:
- Motherboards and hard drives (tied for first place, each ranging between 25 percent and 45 percent of total hardware failures)
- Chassis, including latches, hinges, feet and case cracks
- Keyboards, with keycaps falling off or getting discolored, and spilled drinks seeping under the keyboard
While Gartner thinks these failure rates should be lower, a 25% increase in year 1 of ownership is pretty impressive. Given the fact that notebooks are inherently mobile and susceptible to damage desktop PCs are not, the numbers are at least taking great steps in the right direction. It’s also important to remember laptop owners can go a long way to protect their investment. Proper use of the notebook and physical security, via something like a well padded notebook case, will at least reduce self-inflicted damage, driving down repairs due to things like case cracks and spilled coffee.