What is duty cycle? - Definition from WhatIs.com
Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

Duty cycle is the proportion of time during which a component, device, or system is operated. The duty cycle can be expressed as a ratio or as a percentage. Suppose a disk drive operates for 1 second, then is shut off for 99 seconds, then is run for 1 second again, and so on. The drive runs for one out of 100 seconds, or 1/100 of the time, and its duty cycle is therefore 1/100, or 1 percent.

The more a circuit, machine or component is used, the sooner it will wear out. Therefore, the higher the duty cycle, the shorter the useful life, all other things being equal. If the above-mentioned disk drive has a life expectancy of 1,000,000 hours based on a 1 percent duty cycle, that same device's expectancy would probably be about 500,000 hours based on a duty cycle of 2 percent, and 2,000,000 hours based on a duty cycle of 0.5 percent.

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms


  • photonics

    - Photonics is an area of study that involves the use of radiant energy (such as light), whose fundamental element is the photon. (WhatIs.com)

  • laser

    - A laser is a coherent and focused beam of photons; coherent, in this context, means that it is all one wavelength, unlike ordinary light which showers on us in many wavelengths. The acronym laser s... (WhatIs.com)

  • cyberextortion

    - Cyberextortion is a crime involving an attack or threat of attack against an enterprise, coupled with a demand for money to avert or stop the attack. (SearchSecurity.com)


  • Computing fundamentals

    - Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Tech TalkComment



    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.