Mean time between failures (MTBF) is the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a mechanical or electronic system, during normal system operation. MTBF can be calculated as the arithmetic mean (average) time between failures of a system. The term is used for repairable systems, while mean time to failure (MTTF) denotes the expected time to failure for a non-repairable system.
The definition of MTBF depends on the definition of what is considered a failure. For complex, repairable systems, failures are considered to be those out of design conditions which place the system out of service and into a state for repair. Failures which occur that can be left or maintained in an unrepaired condition, and do not place the system out of service, are not considered failures under this definition. In addition, units that are taken down for routine scheduled maintenance or inventory control are not considered within the definition of failure. The higher the MTBF, the longer a system is likely to work before failing.