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MTBF is the Mean Time Between Failures of a piece of hardware. For hard disk drives it is on the order of 300,000 hours (about 34 years!) and is measured by testing a very large number of hard disk drives for a few hours and seeing how many fail. It isn't a very good measure of the life expectancy of computer hardware, because it only takes account of random failures, not those caused by the disk drive wearing out, which happens after 3-5 years on average.

MTBF, Mean Time Between Failures- A basic measure of reliability for repairable items: The mean number of life units during which all parts of the item perform within their specified limits, during a particular measurement interval under stated conditions.

Part of the field of Reliability Engineering. Governed by the ASQC, American Society for Quality Control.

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