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Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) represents a technology that integrates miniaturized mechanical and electromechanical components (i.e., sensors and actuators) that are made using microfabrication techniques. MEMS devices have become an essential component in a wide range of applications, ranging from medical and military to consumer electronics. As MEMS technology is implemented in a growing range of areas, the reliability of MEMS devices is a concern. Understanding the failure mechanisms is a prerequisite for quantifying and improving the reliability of MEMS devices. This paper reviews the common failure mechanisms in MEMS, including mechanical fracture, fatigue, creep, stiction, wear, electrical short and open, contamination, their effects on devices' performance, inspection techniques, and approaches to mitigate those failures through structure optimization and material selection.