MTBF Search Result Sadness

Equipment that didn't advertise with MTBFA Quick MTBF Search Reveals Distressing Results

I was preparing to write this article and wondered how many search hits would appear for MTBF? So, opened Google and did an MTBF search. It is a common if misunderstood, acronym.

Beyond the 5,200,000 Google search results, it was the first page results that got me thinking. Keep in mind that Google often serves up a combination of what it thinks you are seeking and which sites have been useful for others.

Let’s break down what you find when you do an MTBF search.

MTBF Search Autocompletion

First, Google does not try to correct the spelling of MTBF, even when I use lower case letter. Apparently, MTBF is in the search giant’s dictionary.

Second, the search window shows a popup with common search phrases. Just typing the four letters, the popup contains:

  • mtbf
  • mtbf calculation
  • mtbf meaning
  • mtbf hard drive

The one that is a bit encouraging is the third, mtbf meaning. At least others are looking for the definition. The sad part is often the definitions found with that link suggest MTBF is an important reliability metric (which you know is misleading).

The First 3 Search Results

Wikipedia appears for my first 2 search results. One for the Mean time between failures article and the second result for Failure rate article.

The third result is for What is MTBF (mean time between failures)? and suggests MTBF is “a measure of how reliability a hardware product or component is.” The site What article then notes:

“Most sources define this term to mean average time between failures.”

Going with the crowd, I suppose.

The search results then included a “People also ask” box with the following suggestions:

  • What is mean time between failures?
  • What is MTTR and MTBF:
  • What is failure rate?
  • What is the meaning of MTTF?

According to site search engine optimization improvement suggestions, I should write articles titled and clearing addressing these questions. This may just be my next four articles.

Well, I’m not the only one trying to find an answer to the meaning of various terms.

Next to each question is a drop-down window that shows a snippet of answers to the question.

The Rest of the First Page of Search Results

Having to scroll down a little reveals the rest of the first page of search results. There are 4 PDF documents either providing an overview or set of definitions, 2 calculators, an informative article from, and the last two are articles shared to Google+ from the site.

Yeah, made the first page of results, or it’s just Google knowing it’s mean and sharing some of my own articles.

Related Searches List

After the last first page search result is a listing of “Searches related to MTBF” Google suggests:

  • mtbf calculation
  • mtbf formula
  • mtbf ssd
  • mtbf hard drive
  • mtbf example
  • mtbf failure rate
  • mtbf cisco
  • mttr

More on the calculation and definition type stuff. Again these may make good phrases f future article titles.

Your Results May Vary

I didn’t take any precautions to search shielding my search history from Google. I read somewhere that Google tries to deliver search results that are helpful for the person searching. It works for me most of the time.

There are ways to search without your history influencing the results.

While I did hope at least one article or the homepage of would appear in the results, I wasn’t surprised. The sad part is the top results tend to propagate the myth of importance of usefulness of MTBF.

What search results do you see when searching for MTBF? When you search for MTBF, which I hope you do not have to very often if ever, what are you looking to find? Please leave a comment below, would love to hear from you.


About Fred Schenkelberg

I am an experienced reliability engineering and management consultant with my firm FMS Reliability. My passion is working with teams to create cost-effective reliability programs that solve problems, create durable and reliable products, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce warranty costs.

4 thoughts on “MTBF Search Result Sadness

  1. Way back when, way before this was ever a course in any school or any certificate ever awarded, that I know of, MTBF was the acronym for Mean Time Between Failures. And Mean Time Between Failures was defined by MIL-STD-721 as “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.”
    Please don’t tell me that this is too restrictive and no longer “politically correct” and can now mean whatever you want it to mean….

  2. I am saying it is not politically or practically correct to use MTBF, even if you fully understand the definition.

    The issue is most do not know what it means. Some think it is a failure-free period, others consider it implies a constant hazard rate, and the list of misunderstanding is long.

    If you want to describe the reliability of an item, why not just state the probability of success over a duration with given conditions. My cell phone will power up and function for two years with a 99% probability of doing so in my North American home and office environment.

    MTBF all too often confuses the probability and duration elements for too many people.



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