Mean Time Between Failures

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What Does Mean Time Between Failures Mean?

Mean time between failure (MTBF) refers to the average amount of time that a device or product functions before failing. This unit of measurement includes only operational time between failures and does not include repair times, assuming the item is repaired and begins functioning again. MTBF figures are often used to project how likely a single unit is to fail within a certain period of time.

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Techopedia Explains Mean Time Between Failures

One import aspect of MTBF is that those looking at these kinds of statistics should know whether the measurement applies to one unit that functions until failure, or a large number of different units run for a short time, where the MTBF represents the likelihood of failure during this shorter testing phase. By itself, MTBF does not always indicate how long the test process is for a given unit. For example, if a thousand devices are run for several hours each and 1 percent of them malfunction, this will yield different results than if one unit is tested until it eventually fails.

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.