This short review article explores the practical use of diamond-like carbon (DLC) produced by plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD). Using as an example issues relating to the DLC coating of a hand-held surgical device, we draw on previous works using atomic force microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, tensiometry and electron paramagnetic resonance. Utilising data from these techniques, we examine the surface structure, substrate-film interface and thin film microstructure, such as sp2/sp3 ratio (graphitic/diamond-like bonding ratio) and sp2 clustering. We explore the variations in parameters describing these characteristics, and relate these to the final device properties such as friction, wear resistance, and diffusion barrier integrity. The material and device characteristics are linked to the initial plasma and substrate conditions.