All Laptops Break. Period.

This Consumer Reports chart ranks how quickly different laptops need repair.

As you can see, Apple is in the middle, with Sony as the most reliable and Gateway the least. Surprisingly, on average, 17% of Apple laptops require serious repair.

Suck on that, fanboys!


Edit Your Comment

  1. KesCaesar says:

    Wait- what’s the time period on this?
    I know that all computers break, and this is a great chart, but is it expressing the entire life of a laptop, or a year, or what?

  2. I’d like to know if this is current models as well…I have a Gateway laptop I bought new in 1999, that I’ve taken all around the world with me, and the only thing that has ever broken on it is Windows 98.

  3. Triteon says:

    My 5y.o. Dell laptop suffered it’s first crash this last Monday…BSOD and all–had to do a complete reinstall of XP, Office, etc. So far that’s the only problem I’ve ever had with it.
    Though I do wish the damn thing would break good one day. I’d like an excuse to buy one of those newfangled lighter, sexier ones!

  4. Trae says:

    Well, this backs up my Only Buy Toshibas, Thinkpads, Macs and Sonys when getting a laptop argument. Sweet. Before I only had anecdote and theory to back that up – now I’ve got *statistics* :)

    I don’t know if this is true anymore, but I know that Toshiba and IBM (before selling off the Thinkpad line to Lenovo) were the only two major laptop manufacturers who designed their own harddrives. That’s one of the biggest things to have a problem in my experience, so I’ve always thought that it meant their systems would be more likely to be reliable. Apples tend to be well engineered, so I added them to my preferred list, and Sony makes batteries (the other thing that will have problems) so I considered them to likely be of better quality… but that’s just my form of logic.

    (This statistic isn’t surprising to me though that most laptops break – I used to sell laptops for a while in my unfortunate tenure of working at the big yellow tag… of course, I’m typing this from a 1999 Toshiba laptop that I rely on everyday…)

  5. homerjay says:

    PUH-LEEZE- I’ve had my Powerbook for over a year now and its been in the shop thrice.

    Each of those times I recieved it back in 3 days or less. The process of submitting it for warranty work was about as painful as ordering a pizza, and the CSR’s are incredibly helpful.

    Suck on THAT! :)

  6. KesCaesar says:

    PS- My Dell desktop has been pristine for 3.5 years, and my Dell laptop was repaired *once* in 3 years.

  7. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Lately, I’d wager that the chances of your laptop being comsumed by self-generated flames are probably better than having it break.

    My IBM (pre-Lenova) G40 that I use for work seems to be virtually indestructable, and my 4 year old iBook keeps on chugging (with the exception of the power adapter croaking..but that was fixable with a couple of capacitors and a soldering iron).

  8. zl9600 says:

    Saying Apple is in the middle just because you put it there (or CR did) is a bit unfair, first of all. Apple is tied for second place.

    And we all know this is completely, utterly, undoubtedly more Consumer Reports baloney, as any car buff will tell you how CR tweaks their ‘reports’ to make things look bad or not so bad, or whatever. In other words? Scientific bunk.

    My Thinkpad has been a superstar for three years. My three Mac Laptops have been fantastic, and the warranty and service–which really should be the difference between companies– is rock solid. My Dell? Three times dead in one year, and on hold for three hours once to be told that I needed to upgrade service to get faster support, after the hard drive stopped working.

    Just more anecdotal BS for y’all.

  9. Solo says:

    One big fat chart pulled out of context. Left to the user to plug in the relevant info (how, what model, how long, is it from a survey, from manufacturer data, etc…)

    I’m not even sure what the scale is. Does it really mean that 19% of all gateways have to come back for serious repairs? Does it not look really high? Any other industry with 20% defect? 20% planes crash? 20% of cars stranded on the side of the road?

    And “serious repairs” is not defined anywhere (cuz, you know, it’s just a chart)

    In any case, the spread from 16% to 19% is not enough to make a significant difference for the consumer. A piece of crap like a Compaq is just as good as an Lenovo.

    I call shenanigans on the chart.

  10. Trae says:

    All I know is that one of my many computers was a Dell laptop that was so poorly designed in heat distribution that it corrupted its own hard drive. I’ve been soured on Dells ever since.

  11. Paul D says:

    Dell 5100, purchased May of 2004, never one single problem. Not so much as a hiccup.

    And I abuse that thing.

    / knock wood

  12. Trae says:

    Well, I also use computers for tasks longer than most people – it took about four years for the Dell to fry itself.

    As for reliable – Right now, I’m using a 75MHz pentium Panasonic laptop that is a good 10 years old as a sound mixer for the sound system for my TV… never a problem oddly enough. They just don’t build them like that anymore though…

  13. ajn007 says:

    Let’s put this in a little perspective:

    1) According to this chart, even the “worst offender” has less than a quarter of their machines needing repairs. So it could be A LOT worse and we are lucky it isn’t.

    2) The difference between the highest and the lowest ranked is a paltry 3 percent, a statistic that is thrown into a completely different light when you consider the difference in the number of units sold by each brand. I don’t know specific numbers, but I’ll bet Sony, Apple and Dell have very different sales volumes.

    2) To say that you have X brand and have never had to have it serviced says absolutely nothing about the reliability of the brand. It just means you got one of the 81 – 84% of laptops that did not need any repairs. Congrats on your luck.

  14. Paul D says:

    My anecdotal evidence is ironclad.

    Ironclad I tell you!

  15. overstim says:

    “All laptops break.”

    Well, not exactly. All of the POPULAR laptops break. Because we demand more and more power, and features to be crammed into these things, then we demand smaller and lighter cases, then we demand to pay as little as possible.

    And then we knock them off the couch and spill liquid on them and pick them up when their drives are spinning and move them by their hinges and try to make unauthorized upgraes with the wrong sized tools.

    So, is this really all that surprising?

  16. sherrok says:

    I am a tech at a large retail chain, I can tell you that from personal observation that for the number of compaq’s and hp’s we sell to the number we get in for service it would be around 10-15% as for the others, gateway comes in first at about 5% and sony the worst at about 70% (yes 70% if we sell 10 sony’s I can garantie that 4 will be back in the first few days and the rest with in a year)

    now this is for only minor problems, Dead HDD’s, Faulty Ram, dead Pixels. you take 25% of those numbers and you get critical failures, Dead motherboards, Dead back-lights.

    I find this cart absoloutly mis leading and in -accurate.

    But this is just from what I have noticed. in my 1 and a half years of tech work.

  17. kyoko703 says:

    This post was made from an IBM Thinkpad 600 TYPE 2645-51U with a manufacturing date of 05/1998. Clocked at 266mhz and sporting 256MB, this little beast is running the original stock Windows XP no SP.

    Oh yeah, never been repaired and even the bios battery still works.

  18. Doc says:

    I repair all makes of laptops and PCs…they all break eventually. Do Caddys breakdown less than a plain jane chev? Probably not, but you’re going to pay more to buy it in the first place, often more to repair it and more again to replace it with another Caddy! Get the best bang for your buck. A compaq or HP is no less reliable than others, and I have 2 dead DELLs here that are less than 2 years old…MOBOs and displays dead in both, eventhough they do have a rugged frame.
    I personally own 3 older laptops, compaq from the win98 era, hp and toshiba that originally had ME but now XP. All have had their issues but I know the first 2 cost much less initially and the Toshiba is my favorite, my workhorse…missing keys and all!!! LOL
    She ain’t pretty, but maybe less of a target for theives!

  19. Doc says:

    I repair all makes of laptops and PCs. They all have issues at some time, some software, some hardware, but price is NOT an indicator of reliability.
    Does a Caddy breakdown less or at more convienient times than a Chev? Not likely, and it did cost more to buy, will cost more to fix, and more to replace with the same!
    I have 2 dead 2 year old DELLs here, Mobos and displays junked in both, although they do have a very rugged frame inside. I own 3 older laptops, Compaq (Win98), HP and Toshiba (orig Win ME, now XP). They have all had issues over time. The first 2 had gentle owners and look like new. The Toshiba Satellite was owned by a university student and has had stuff spilled in and has keys missing…but it is my favorite and my workhorse! She ain’t pretty, but strong and reliable and maybe less of a target for theives! LOL
    I buy all my NEW computers and Walmart or Bestbuy…get the best bang for your buck!…a well padded case goes a long way too!
    Btw, customer support sucks equally across the board from all manufactuers.

  20. philosopherdog says:

    There’s only a 3% difference between best and worst! Probably says that they’re all made from the same junk more or less. Get the 3 year warranty! I love the anecdotes too. Iron clad they are not people. Anyhow, any dummy knows that Mac notebooks aren’t great. They’ve been running desktop chips on them until recently. Heat is probably the biggest problem on any notebook and how could the Macs run cool with the smokin hot desktop chip on board?

  21. zentec says:

    Saying how “quickly a laptop needs repair” is a bit vague considering that laptops are jostled around in their portable life. Furthermore, the most fragile components of a laptop are usually provided by a third party; like a hard drive.

    I think the life of a laptop is directly tied to the person using it regardless if it’s a Sony, Dell or Apple.

    Finally, you have to be careful and read the fine print when looking at data from Consumer Reports. They often tie their findings to other criteria.

  22. SteveMac says:

    I agree, putting your personal experience with 1 or 2 laptops is pretty worthless. Consumer Reports takes surveys of thousands of users, so adding one more in comments isn’t exactly an effective counter or support to the chart. Even though 3% difference between the best and worst laptops does not seem like much, it does mirror the reliability I experience with the HUNDREDS of laptops I have purchased over the years for my clients. I have purchased over 100 of each brand of Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, and Lenovo/IBM laptops since 1998. Toshiba and Lenovo/IBM have had about half the repairs/problems compared to the Dell and Gateway laptops. So no, purchasing a Gateway laptop is not going to doom you to warranty work, but you do have a better chance of having a trouble free laptop if you purchase from the top half of the list.

  23. bia says:

    Below is the text that goes with the chart. It’s a simple survey and the results are pretty much statisticaly insignificant.

    Readers report on 127,800 computers.
    These graphs show the percentage of the following brands of computers bought between 2002 and 2006 that have ever been repaired or had a serious problem. Differences of less than 4 points are not meaningful for desktops, less than 3 points for laptops. Models within a brand may vary, and changes in design or manufacture may affect reliability. Still, choosing a brand with a good repair history can improve your odds.

  24. joeylopez says:

    The irony is that if you own a laptop, you better have bought a service plan on it; anyone who’s ever worked for a retailer that sells laptops or a computer repair center knows to recommend them, but on laptops especially. And chances are, your laptop will end up at Geek Squad City, the fastest laptop repair facility in the world. So suck on that anti-GS and anti-BB fanpeeps!

  25. stephendv says:

    The bar graph is very pretty, to be sure. Love the grey. Now, how about some real information:
    1. How many of each manufacturers systems were tested?
    2. What is the time period of the study?
    3. Who commissioned the study?
    4. When the systems failed, what caused the failure? (an HDD failure in a gateway system doesn’t say anything about Gateway, only about the HDD manufacturer).
    But keep up the good work! How about a 3D graph next time?

  26. Plasmafire says:

    Has anyone done a comparison to how many laptops are actually produced by what brands and what models, compared with their repair rate? That would be far more useful information.

  27. in4m8ionman says:

    Need more information to tell if this is new information or not. Probably not. Gartner and others – especially Laptop Magazine – have tested notebooks for years and came out with similar conclusions. In the most recent, Lenovo and Apple came out on top while Dell and HP did not fair to well. Gartner’s numbers show that something like 20% of notebook owners need a repair in the first year and it goes up from there each year after that. The most recent article I saw covered break-fix of notebooks and coverage via telephone support. Very interesting.


  28. obviousdiversion says:

    Why not do another post showing the same graph for desktop computers? I wonder how the mac would fare there?

  29. Triteon says:

    What’s with all the retail advocacy above? Just to fan the fire– I would never use the Geek Squad. It’s easier to back up your files and do a complete reinstall rather than wonder which flea market has your hard drive.

  30. brichter says:

    from above:

    “kyoko703 says:

    This post was made from an IBM Thinkpad 600 TYPE 2645-51U with a manufacturing date of 05/1998. Clocked at 266mhz and sporting 256MB, this little beast is running the original stock Windows XP no SP.”

    Can I ask the poster where he got his Thinkpad with WinXP in 1998?

    As far as the chart goes, it looks to me that all the laptops surveyed have about the same failute rate. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that they all use pretty much the same parts from the same manufacturers? Really, Apple (or any of the others) doesn’t make their own displays, hard drives, batteries, memory, etc., now do they? :)

  31. Trae says:

    Let’s thank Digg for bringing over the ridiculous Retail love. Did I used to sell laptops? Yes. Did I ever feel guilty for recommending the service plans on laptops? No. Bought one myself.

    On the other hand – as a former employee of the big yellow tag, I’ve known many Geek Squad employees, and, well… sorry but often I knew more about how to do their job than they did. Geek Squad is fairly incompetent.

  32. Triteon says:

    Trae– just read your post. I had missed the Digg tag earlier…yep, that explains the newbies.

  33. orielbean says:

    In response to Stevend’s 4 questions about the study…

    “The bar graph is very pretty, to be sure. Love the grey. Now, how about some real information:
    1. How many of each manufacturers systems were tested?
    2. What is the time period of the study?
    3. Who commissioned the study?
    4. When the systems failed, what caused the failure? (an HDD failure in a gateway system doesn’t say anything about Gateway, only about the HDD manufacturer).
    But keep up the good work! How about a 3D graph next time?”

    Answers :
    1. There were about 128,000 laptops included in the study. Not sure how many of each.
    2. The time period was from 2004 to 2006.
    3. If you are familiar with Consumer Reports – they very specifically fund their own research without any advertising or outside influence. Unlike any car magazine ever printed…
    4. The cause of failure wasn’t listed – but the point of the study is not to see if a bad display or battery was the issue.

    If Gateway chooses a poor HDD to put in thier machine, then they get a poor repair rating. Seagate or WD or Maxtor are not the issue here. I’m sure we could pick apart individual component issues, but since the companies are using single vendors for most of their items, choosing a low quality vendor is also having an impact on their brand. Compaq is a prime example of this.

    The last point I would agree with is that the study’s results are not statistically significant. All brands were within the margin of error for the study, so it is hard to draw an accurate conclusion as to which ones are better. It doesn’t make the study worthless, but it makes the point that most of the laptops are very similar in reliability.

  34. AnthonyC says:

    My Dell laptop started breaking about 6 months after I got it in June 2005. The CD Rom drive broke in December. The summer of 2006 it began not starting up if it wasn’t plugged in unless it had been hibernating or in standby, not off. Then system and registry files began getting corrrupted. Since Dell couldn’t detect any hardware issues (although all my computer science major friends insisted from the first time that it had to be a hard drive problem) they had me reinstall Windows XP (and all my software- good thing I had just bought an external hard drive) no fewer than 4 times between October and April (3 of which were because it suddenly would not start at all, period) before finally, in June, I was able to get there diagnostic utility to detect a bad sector on the hard drive and they sent me a new hard drive, and, after another hour of complaining, a technician to install it. Then one last install of XP… and so far, it is working. Still under warranty for another 2 years though.
    Also my girlfriend’s Dell laptop is 1 year old. So far Dell has had to replace her CD rom drive once, her keyboard twice and the hinges on her screen 4 times.