[clug] OT: Life-span of motherboards

Steve Jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Mon Nov 17 19:39:59 EST 2003

This is an electronic engineering question :-)
It is also manufacturing/production quality question.

==> 'Tier 1' manufacturers hopefully take more care in the design,
manufacture and testing of their gear than 'whitebox' commodity

You've not mentioned a couple of important variables:
- What CPU & chipset you've been running.
- Some idea of the quality of your motherboards & gear.
- The 'duty cycle' of your gear.  Run 24*7??

When I worked at O.T.C. [Overseas Telecommunications] in 1985 we had an
exchange start to have _chip_ failures.  After 10+ years of 24*7
operation, the silicon was starting to expire.  We didn't see many
circuit board or solder joint failures.  Our techs were trained to do
solder joints with a 25 year life.

The Silicon transistor failure curve is a 'bathtub', when plotted
against log(time).  It is two exponential curves:
- fabrication errors, fast exponential decay
- life-time effects, slow exponential rise.

=> In the first 0.1-1hour most of the early failures will occur.
=> Then at about 100,000 hours, all the inherent silicon problems emerge
and the transistors lose their gain and/or transconductance.

There are generally 3 dimensions to failures:
- chips
- boards, joints, connectors and  other physical stuff
- heat stress failure - overtemp or too many power cycles

How to prolong the life of your motherboards:
- buy good stuff to begin with
- run it _cool_.  Every 5deg rise in operating temp shortens life
appreciably (and exponentially). Can't remember the formula.
- reduce running hours

Now I'll stand back & wait the flames :-)


On Mon, 2003-11-17 at 18:18, Phil and Marlene Carter wrote:
> Gday all,
> This is not a particular Linux question, but I'd appreciate some advice.
> How long can I expect a motherboard in a PC to last? 
> I have managed to cook 2 motherboards (in different computers)
>  in the last couple of months. The boards were about 2-3 years old.
>  I suppose that, given the pace of advances in computer technology,
>  getting 2-3 years out of a computer is not all that bad, 
> but on the other hand, I would have expected more than 2-3 years use
>  out of a motherboard in not-too-demanding home/home office use.
> Is there anything I can do to prolong the life of my new motherboards?
>  I don't know offhand what brand of motherboards I have destroyed, 
> but are some boards better than others?  
> Thanks in advance,
> Phil Carter
Steve Jenkin, Unix Sys Admin
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

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