Microsoft Research: laptops more reliable than desktops, faster CPUs fail quicker

For reasons known only to the great churning of the internet, a paper published in April 2011 and presented at EuroSys 2011 has only just bubbled to the top of web consciousness and looks into consumer hardware failures across a million PCs.

For reasons known only to the great churning of the internet, a paper published in April 2011 and presented at EuroSys 2011 has only just bubbled to the top of web consciousness and looks into consumer hardware failures across a million PCs.

(Credit: Seagate/CBSi)

The study was limited to CPU, RAM and disk failures that caused software crashes on Windows via the in-built WER tool. While some results (like disks becoming less reliable with the age of the machine) were obvious, quite a few interesting results came about:

  • Laptops are more reliable than desktops — they are between 25 and 60 per cent less likely to crash. This doesn't take into account usage

  • Faster CPUs become faulty more quickly than slower CPUs

  • A slightly overclocked CPU will "significantly degrade machine reliability" (although it's unclear if Turbo Boost-style auto overclocking was covered)

  • Slight CPU underclocking improves reliability dramatically over running at rated speed, at 39 to 80 per cent less likely to crash

  • CPU and RAM in pre-built machines (Dell, HP et al) have lower failure rates than custom built machines. Disks stay the same

  • While both AMD and Intel CPUs were tested for reliability, and one outperformed the other, the study annoyingly doesn't say which

  • Younger systems are more likely to have CPU failures, but there's no evidence shown of burnout

  • Adding more RAM reduces the risk of disk failure, although increases the rate of CPU failure, and minimally increases the chance of RAM failure

  • Age of system has no effect on RAM failures

  • Up to 1 in 190 machines crash over an 8 month period due to hardware failure

  • After the first crash, likelihood of the same crash re-occurring increases by up to two orders of magnitude

  • Recurrent failure will happens in 97 per cent of machines within 10 days of the first failure

  • 15 to 39 per cent of machines exhibited intermittent faults.

The recommendation from the team involved? Build a more fault tolerant operating system.

For the full stats, we'd recommend reading the paper on Microsoft Research's page.

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About the author

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

 

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