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What is the mean time before failure (MTBF) for a Raspberry Pi Model B? I can't seem to find this information anywhere.

I have an idea for a kind of art project that would require one to run as long as possible, and I want to have some idea of how long that would be. I'm only concerned with hardware failures on the Pi board itself that would render it unbootable, software instability is fine as long as the watchdog timer can manage an automatic reboot.

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The SD card is the first point of failure. If it used constantly like full read and write the entire card about 2 years.But its a bit longer because of distribution for least wear. Second point of failure will be power supply(if its cheap 2USD one dont expect more than 1~2 constant use-go for switched PSU) But as the Pi in general it depends on the conditions. If in a dry and constant environment you could find it runs several years. In extreme conditions it might not last a year. We need more information. –  ppumkin Jul 24 '13 at 19:29
    
why are you concerned about MTBF? at the current prices, i'd buy several and replace as needed. –  lenik Jul 24 '13 at 19:36
    
I care about MTBF because part of the point is that the project will be totally unmaintained. The MTBF number that I want is for the Pi itself, ignoring things like SD cards and power supplies (those numbers are more available). –  Kaypro II Jul 24 '13 at 19:48
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I don't think you will be able to find any useful numbers for MTBF. The RPi was not designed for critical uses where this would be a concern. –  Craig Jul 24 '13 at 20:06
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Perhaps this is a question for the Raspberry Pi team. I would shoot them off an email, since they stress test the devices. For what it counts, I've had mine since they first started selling them and it's still going strong. –  syb0rg Jul 24 '13 at 20:33

2 Answers 2

I'd backup the suggestions so far. The most likely point of failure would be the SD card. My own experience is that the SD card is fairly fragile. I had a power outage for just a second (New Zealand's electricity network is not that great even in the main cities!) and though the Pi would be able to restart after a power outage, in my case the SD cards failed dramatically. I had two Pis crash and get corrupted SD cards - I had to re-install the OS. My 3rd was able to pick itself up and reboot OK. Of the two that failed one had such a badly corrupted card that I was not able to put a operating system on it, it ended in the bin.

For a permanent fixture, you should consider that the power is likely to go off and come on without warning. Make sure your app will start automatically on boot. Also look at avoiding writing to the SD card - which will wear the card out (albeit very slowly). I'd imagine that an art installation wouldn't need to write to files or anything, but if it did then look at having your files in /tmp, which should be in RAM not on the SD card. You might consider ways of including a backup power supply. Perhaps solar cells or LiPo batteries.

Another approach would be to think about redundancy. Would your project be able to use two Pis, one that would cut in if the other failed? It could greatly complicate your project but for mission critical applications, that's a standard approach.

Sorry I've not included any actual figures as you have looked for, but maybe there's some information here that could help you think round the problem.

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This is not an answer to my question. My question, restated simply, is how long, on average, can the Raspberry Pi board itself operate before it fails. While SD card reliability is important to the integrated system, it's a totally different thing. –  Kaypro II Aug 10 '13 at 2:49

I think the only way to get a realistic answer is to look up the data sheets on the important ICs, which should have a published MTBF rating.

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Unfortunately the datasheet for the SoC BCM2835, the main IC on the Pi, is not available for general use. –  Marco Poli Aug 29 '13 at 22:34

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