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MTBF - Mean Time Between Failure
By:Diane Shired
Christine Martz
The average frequency with which a product fails, the average time between failure or the length of time a component or computer hardware is expected to work without failure. It is also an indicator of system reliability that is calculated from known failure rates of various system components. MTBF measure how reliable a product is, it indicates the failure rate of computer hardware and server components and is usually given in units of hours. MTBF is not the correct tool for all applications, but is a very useful tool for measurements of reliability.

The product is more reliable the higher the MTBF rating. The MTBF is determined by dividing the number of failures by the hours the object is under manufacturer's observation. If a product has a MTBF rating of 45000 then the system would not have a failure for approximately 5 years. MTBF is not related to life expectancy or the operating life of the product. A failure assumes that the product can resume normal operation or that the product can be repaired. MTBF has nothing to do with product lifetime. What it does, it can help to quantify the suitability of a system or component for a potential application.

Other Related Definitions for MTBF
"Mean Time Between Failure is a reliability term used loosely throughout many industries and has become widely abused in some. Over the years the original meaning of this term has been altered which has led to confusion and cynicism. MTBF is largely based on assumptions and definition of failure and attention to these details are paramount to proper interpretation. This paper explains the underlying complexities and misconceptions of MTBF and the methods available for estimating it." [Silicon.com - Publisher's Description]

"Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) is a much-used management metric in IT both for discrete components as well as overall systems. For simplicity, let's define MTBF as the average time between failures. It's either based on historical data or estimated by vendors and is used as a benchmark for reliability. Organizations trending MTBF over time can readily see devices that are failing above average and take appropriate action. Where MTBF breaks down is when management puts too much faith in unproven MTBF estimates and uses them to justify inordinately massive amounts of capital investment on complex systems. This may seem to be a bold statement and therefore requires some explanation. If we assume that there are 8,760 hours per year (365 days x 24 hours per day) then we can divide MTBF claims from vendors and look at how long the system will run in years. If we buy a system, or component, with a rating of 30,000 MTBF, then we might assume that on average, the system would run 3.42 years without a failure. Granted, there are always statistical variations around the average, but 3.42 years doesn't seem bad at all, does it?" [InternetNews.com - George Spafford]

"The average time between equipment failures over a given period i.e. the average time a device will function before failing. It is the reliability rating indicating the expected failure rate of equipment." [KPILibrary]

"MTTF and MTBF are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are in fact different. MTTF refers to the average (the mean, in arithmetic terms) time until a component fails, can't be repaired and must therefore be replaced, or until the operation of a product, process or design is disrupted. MTBF is properly used only for components that can be repaired and returned to service. This introduces a couple of related abbreviations occasionally encountered: MTTR (mean time to repair) and, less common, MTTD (mean time to diagnose). With those notions in mind, we could say that MTBF = MTTF + MTTD + MTTR." [ComputerWorld]

"MTBF provides an understanding of the reliability versus cost for the design team. By properly allocating spending on components, designers can judiciously choose which components justify a higher cost to get better reliability and which do not. This understanding leads to the design of competitive products. Ultimately, the prediction can even support the calculation of warranty period." [Percept Technology Labs]
Links Related to MTBF
Analog Engineering Solutions - Reliability Prediction - Parts Count MTBF
shsu.edu - Mean Time Between Failure
News, references and more on Engineeringtalk
- Mean Time Between Failure
Technical Resources for MTBF
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)
The PC Guide
Products and Solutions for MTBF
The Mean Time Between Failure for Token Express™ MCA Adapters Using STP cabling:
Reliability Prediction and Testing
Planning for High Availability: Attempt to Eliminate Downtime

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Blogs, Videos, and Social Networking about MTBF
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A Guide to Measuring Reliability - Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)
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More Information About MTBF
Books about MTBF
The Statistical Analysis of Failure Time Data - by John D. Kalbfleisch, Ross L. Prentice
Failure Mode and Effect Analysis: FMEA from Theory to Execution - D. H. Stamatis
The Basics of FMEA - Raymond J. Mikulak

Other MTBF Related Books

Used and New MTBF for Sale

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