Insights: Laptops

Why do laptops fail? What are the barriers to repairing them?

Where does the data come from?

Open Repair Alliance partner The Restart Project facilitated two online microtasking quests – FaultCat in 2020, and CompCat in 2021 – where volunteer participants looked at Open Repair Alliance data on computers, including around 3500 repair attempts of laptops. The aim of these quests was to sort the records into buckets of fault “types”.

Community repair events are busy with volunteers concentrating their efforts on the people and the devices that turn up. The data that gets recorded by a fixer is their description of the situation at the time. Microtask participants would read this “problem” text and judge whether it fitted any of the fault “types” that were presented. Based on consensus of these opinions, the outcomes for the devices were assigned.

In total, across FaultCat and CompCat, 3511 records with the product category of “Laptop” were present. After filtering out those with an empty “problem” statement, 2828 remained. 2531 of these records received a winning fault type during the FaultCat and CompCat quests – that is, the fault type received either a majority of opinions from quest participants, or received ‘split opinions’ which were subsequently adjudicated by members of the Restart team. Records that did not receive enough opinions for either a majority or adjudication at the time that the quest closed are not included. The fault types that were available to choose from, and their descriptions, are listed here: