Modern drives also make extensive use of Error Correcting Codes (ECCs), particularly Reed–Solomon error correction. These techniques store extra bits for each block of data that are determined by mathematical formulae. The extra bits allow many errors to be fixed. While these extra bits take up space on the hard drive, they allow higher recording densities to be employed, resulting in much larger storage capacity for user data.In 2009, in the newest drives, low-density parity-check codes (LDPC) are supplanting Reed-Solomon. LDPC codes enable performance close to the Shannon Limit and thus allow for the highest storage density available.
Typical hard drives attempt to "remap" the data in a physical sector that is going bad to a spare physical sector—hopefully while the number of errors in that bad sector is still small enough that the ECC can completely recover the data without loss. The S.M.A.R.T. system counts the total number of errors in the entire hard drive fixed by ECC, and the total number of remappings, in an attempt to predict hard drive failure.