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What checkable attributes of computers models or manufactures have historically and should continue to correlated with with the reliability (low tendency to require maintenance work relating to hardware and drives drivers) of the systems in question? Of particular interest are attributes that are informative for low cost systems.

Note: I'm Not asking for a shopping or buying recommendation for a specific machine or brand. I'm asking for advice on what sort of things I should be looking at and what questions I should be asking to make my own evaluation. In short; if it wasn't good advice last year or won't be the year after next, it's not an answer to the question I'm trying to ask.

I will down vote any answer that list a specific brand or model (other than in the contexts like "Look for high F factors, e.g. the FooBar-275 has F=42 and that is considered good").

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I don't think you can generalize such a question. When you're referring to low cost systems it is of course implied that low-cost hardware will probably be more likely to fail. You can't however say that from any hardware specification. – slhck Jan 28 '11 at 20:55
@slhck: For my case, I'm willing to sacrifice a lot of perf and features (graphics, ports, HDD/RAM/CPU, expandability, etc.) to lower the cost (I really don't even need what the weakest system built today can give) but am willing to pay a fair price for quality. – BCS Jan 28 '11 at 21:55

Hard Drives often feature performance metrics such as the Mean Time Between Failure, i.e. the average time it takes for the first failure to occur. I am not aware of any details what constitutes a failure, or how such measurements are taken by the manufacturers, but comparing MTBFs is definitely valid.

MTBF can also be expressed as a reliability measure, for example like 99.9999% (which would be called "4-9 reliability" as far as I'm concerned).

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Depending on who you ask that could be "6-9's". Does anyone publish such numbers for built systems? – BCS Jan 28 '11 at 21:57
You're right, I've heard 6-9 as well. As for built systems, I'm not too sure - But you can always look up the hard disk model and see if you can find this information. I know it's possible since I recently bought a NAS and had to compare a lot of (budget vs. pro) drives. – slhck Jan 29 '11 at 7:40

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