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For magnetic disk drives, we have developed a scheme for synchronous servo with maximum-likelihood (SSML) detection that is synchronous around the entire circumference of the track and utilizes ML estimation to detect head position, clock mark phase, and track addresses. Compared to the conventional asynchronous sector servo scheme, the SSML scheme has many, much shorter, servo areas-typically several hundred-distributed on the disk. This results in higher servo information rate, which will be needed for future high-track-density disk drives with a wide servo bandwidth. We analyze the performance of the SSML scheme, including the format efficiency. We discuss a limitation of the synchronous servo scheme with respect to the number of servo areas, and we show an appropriate region for its application. Feasibility of the SSML scheme has been demonstrated in prototype 2.5-in hard disk drives.