Let's learn why computers break!

Calling all data delvers, budding repairers, practised fixers and anyone who cares about making our devices last longer. We need your help!

Together with our friends in the Open Repair Alliance, we’ve amassed data about thousands of broken laptops and desktop computers that have been brought to repair events to be fixed. We want to explore these repair stories to understand the most common causes of failure for these devices.

Knowing why these computers broke will help us make a stronger case for Right to Repair laws that would make future computers easier to fix :muscle:

For an example of why this matters, read the story of @ugo’s encounter with a big tech lobbyist

How to help

We’ve collected all the information we have about broken computers into spreadsheets. The task is simple: go to a spreadsheet and—row by row—read the details about each device and choose the type of problem from a list. Each spreadsheet contains more detailed instructions in the first tab.

There are spreadsheets in 4 languages. Simply choose the one(s) you are most comfortable with:

English (finished) | Français (complété) | Deutsch (abgeschlossen) | Nederlands

Every minute of your time gets us that much closer! Feel free to post back here if you have questions :+1:

Thank you for your help!

click/tap for details about the event we ran that has now finished

Event details

So on Saturday 2021-11-13T14:00:00Z, we’ll be holding an online data-dive / social to explore this data together. The session will last around 2 hours (but you can drop out when you need to).

It should be fun and you don’t need to be an expert in data, repair or computers as we’ll explain it all as we go. All you need is a spare hour or two and a computer (ideally desktop or laptop) with an internet connection :slight_smile:

Because the data itself comes in English, Dutch, French and German, we’ll be delighted to welcome anyone who can speak these languages too :+1:

If you would like to come, please vote in the poll below.
I’ll send you the location of the online session a few days beforehand.
[Poll closed]

But wait, are you based in London? If you’re a repairer based in London, please consider helping out at the Restart Party happening at the same time instead. Find the details here.


My experience especially with laptops, I noticed most of the faults happens to the keyboard button not working. But also a common problem here is that our electricity stability is not upto date hence in most cases laptop or desktop computers including mobile phones being affected by power surge.


A quick reminder that this is happening today!
We’ll be gathering at 2pm (GMT), which is 3pm CET.

If you would like to come, simply vote on the poll above and I’ll send you the online meeting room :+1:

See you there!

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Hi all! We’re just starting the session here if you’re looking to join: https://whereby.com/therestartproject - look forward to seeing you!

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Noting it’s Aaron Swartz Day today - feels appropriate to be working on an open data / open access related task today :slight_smile: Aaron Swartz was a big open access activist.

Cory Doctorow is speaking at an online event later related to right to repair it seems - more details at - https://www.aaronswartzday.org/asd-2021/

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A huge thank you to @Christian_Mauderer, @GUIVI_ELIAS_OPPORTUN_C, @hkoundi, @Mathew_Lubari, @Monique, @neil & @ugo for coming along today! It was great to see you all and nice to chat while diving into the data :slight_smile:

Together we provided a whopping 1245 opinions on nearly 900 broken computers :clap:

If you missed this event and would still like to contribute (or if you came and want to keep going!), you can find the spreadsheets we worked on below. Be sure to read the first tab with the instructions before getting started:

English (finished) | Français (complété) | Deutsch (abgeschlossen) | Nederlands

And feel free to post below if you have any questions :+1:


Just 38 opinions needed in the Laptop C column (because A and B disagree) this morning - well done!

I like the spreadsheet format because it’s quick to go through with no navigating except down-cursor, except I wouldn’t mind not seeing the other opinions. The colouring to show where input is needed is really helpful :slight_smile:

It’s becoming normal (to me, anyway) to see the occasional standout item, like the one which said something like ‘user saw small flames’. Gulp.


Thanks so much Ian, that’s incredibly helpful!
Glad you like the format - we decided to keep it simple this time given the short-timeframe. And good point, we could probably hide completed columns to reduce the influence of previous reviewers when choosing options.

Haha, I think I saw the ‘small flames’ one too! Scary stuff :fire:


I came across this problem report for one of the laptops:

“A cat ran over the notebook keyboard, got scared and ripped out a key. We were able to reattach it and now the entire alphabet is available to him again.”

(originally in German)



Was it the paws key?


“Doet het niet meer nadat bliksem is ingeslagen.”

which DeepL translates as

“Does not work after lightning strikes” :cloud_with_lightning:

(a power surge presumably, hopefully not a direct hit!)

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Referring to the owner not working, or to their laptop?