I have to set up a three monitor display for a museum, that will run 24/7 , and I think about a simple Pi wall.

But I'd like to know if a Raspberry Pi is a good long term solution.

The system will run all day long, and I hope it can last at least 5 years without troubles.

It will run on UPS, with everything needed for autoreboot, and good SD cards.

I know that a computer with no moving parts is already a good idea for that purpose, but I can't find info about long term reliability of the Raspberry Pi (except about pure hardware failures on the Pi itself).

Is the Raspberry Pi suitable for such long term exploitation? Does anyone have info about years-long uptime with Raspberry Pi?

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    I would like to share my experience in this regard. I have a couple of Rpi based industrial logger deployed. They are running since Mar '14 and I've not faced a single SD card corruption or any other issue in my loggers. So, I would say, they are very durable. Please note that they almost run 10 hr a day on an average if not more and sometimes for an entire week at a stretch. Hope it helps. – dhruvvyas90 Nov 19 '15 at 15:51
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    Possible duplicate of raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/325/… – robartsd Nov 19 '15 at 17:33
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    Possible duplicate of What is the MTBF of the Raspberry Pi Model B? – Steve Nov 19 '15 at 20:27
  • The accepted answer tells the story better, so I'll add this as a comment: My Pi has been running continuously for three years as a web server. Along the way the input capacitor has broken off, it's been thrown about and without a case behind the desktop computer powered by a mobile phone charger. It still works. – Nenad Vukicevic Nov 22 '15 at 20:22
  • I have yet to try it, but can the SD card concerns be erased by PXE booting, and mounting network drives? – Nick Jan 11 '17 at 21:51

I assume you're talking about using the Pi for digital signage purposes. For the last years we have deployed hundreds of Pi's doing exactly that.

Many of our Pi's are not as lucky as yours: they're not on UPS and/or are on 'dirty' power lines. Lost phases, powercuts and power surge peaks are common. Roughly calculated we have about 1% failure - totally over all the years over all the Pis. This includes human originated damage.

Many people complain or warn about potential SD card failure. I mustn't pretend that this is not true. But I personally haven't had any issues with that. Granted, we don't write that often but we also don't avoid writing. If you not log every time the seconds change, I doubt that it's going to be an issue. Definitely not for digital signage.

Our setup generally is: Pi, $0.1 heatsink, $3 power adaptor, $1 HDMI cable, $0.01 plastic business card box casing with holes punched into them. For SD we use a variety of sizes and brands. Actually mostly non-brands; 4GB class 4 cards often collected from the bottom of drawers or pen holders. Or new $2 retail Sandisk class 4 cards. The stuff nobody wants. If I could buy them by the kilo I would.

So yes, IMHO the Pi will do absolutely fine in your museum!

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    I really like that you put some concrete figures out there. Out of the 1%, could you provide a rough figure of how many instances needed any kind of maintenance apart from "It rebooted itself, so there was a brief outage" or "I just had to replug it" or "It appear to cut power in middle of file write, causing local, reversible corruption"? – Statement Nov 19 '15 at 20:37
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    In a timespan of about 3 years. About 300 Pis in service. Zero DOA. About 20 returned from venues assumed dead. 3 of them ended up in the trash, the rest recovered by replacing the PSU and/or SD card (undocumented as replacing the SD with new software-version is standard procedure). PSU failure is a bit higher I estimate about 2 per month, with lifespan between 1 and 36 months. What hangs/reboots concerns I don't have any numbers, but rough guess is that 75% of our units don't run for 24h straight anyway (main grid powercuts and venues putting off the units during closing hours). – EDP Nov 19 '15 at 20:57
  • Hi, thank you for the awesome answer, totally what I was hoping for. Just one thing, it's absolutely not for digital signage, it's to show a 5640x1080 pixels 10 minutes movie on those three borderless displays. – Spoutnik16 Nov 19 '15 at 21:47
  • That's a lot of screen estate. I assume you won't get this resolution straight out of a single Pi? Would be interesting to see your planning and when/how you got that up and running. – EDP Nov 20 '15 at 10:58
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    @Spoutnik16, how would you drive those 3 displays from a raspi? And if you think about running one per display, how do you synchronize them? – r_ahlskog Nov 20 '15 at 13:15

I realise this is not going to become an accepted answer, but I figured I'd dump some information I've accrued that may aid you choose an approach and this is too long for a comment.

I only have rumors to provide regarding SD card volatility. Personally I am just starting out with RPi and cannot provide concrete details or personal experience. But a close friend of mine told me I was most likely going to get frustrated with flash cards getting corrupt. He claim to have several cards die on him. I'd research card volatility if I were in your shoes, or trust other peoples advice. But if a card fries, perhaps it's not the end of the world if you have prepared SD cards to plug back in (the worst that happen is the museum wall is down until someone plugs a new card in). From what I understand, it's safe to read from cards, but writing to cards can cause corruption over time.

From a technical point of view, it should be possible to avoid writing to the SD card and instead write to another persistent medium over USB or network, for example. Unfortunately I don't know how to configure Raspbian or the boot loader for this. The operating system most likely will store memory pages on disk to manage memory, so even if you are not explicity writing to disk, the OS most likely will. With that in mind, configuring the OS to write to another disk (or over network) could be one way to reduce risk of hardware failure.

Another completely different approach could be to setup your PI to be a thin client that doesn't do much on its own and let a server do logic and persistance. In this setup, all your PI does is provide a graphics card, more or less.

As for ondulator, I don't know what that is. I just found hair products when I searched for it.

Unfortunately I have no concrete steps on how to configure an existing operating system to work as described in the above scenarios, but I would be surprised if it wasn't possible. Personally, since I have no commercial pressure, I'll just go with the SD card until I personally experience problems and then consider switching to a setup where I only use the SD card as a ROM bootstrap.

I greatly appreciate if the community downvote + leave comment with constructive criticism if I am providing seriously ill-based information. It's a great way to learn :)

  • Ondulator is a bad translation for UPS ( uninterrupted power supply ). Post has been edited. – Spoutnik16 Nov 19 '15 at 16:55
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    Also, note that I don't know if my friend is techy enough to tell if SD corruption was caused from power outage (stopping executing mid write) or from wear (electronics wear out after time). Could be that he didn't have a case on and shorted the circuits for all I know. – Statement Nov 19 '15 at 21:08

I have been running a Java server on my raspberry pi for almost a year now, non stop, and it has not cut out yet.

Most likely, the reason we don't have data regarding how long they will last is because they're still a relatively new technology (Coming out Feb 2012) and no one (or not many people) have reported them to have died from extreme usage.

My advice is to go for it. If you're running something simple on it, then you will get a few years out of them in my opinion.

  • Is the pi still running? If not, RIP, poor little guy. – Ted Taylor of Life Nov 13 '16 at 0:12
  • It's not running my server anymore but yes its still running 24/7 :) – 0xen Nov 13 '16 at 12:59
  • Wow, that is impressive. How long has it been running continously ? – Ted Taylor of Life Nov 13 '16 at 13:02
  • It was running consistently for around 16 months, then I started using it again 4 months ago and it's been running ever since. – 0xen Nov 13 '16 at 14:13
  • Holy smokes! That is pretty wild. So it has been going strong for about 20 months – Ted Taylor of Life Nov 13 '16 at 14:14

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