The application of current generation computing machines in safety-centric applications like implantable biomedical chips and automobile safety has immensely increased the need for reviewing the worst-case error behavior of computing devices for fault-tolerant computation. In this work, we propose an exact probabilistic error model that can compute the maximum error over all possible input space in a circuit-specific manner and can handle various types of structural dependencies in the circuit. We also provide the worst-case input vector, which has the highest probability to generate an erroneous output, for any given logic circuit. We also present a study of circuit-specific error bounds for fault-tolerant computation in heterogeneous circuits using the maximum error computed for each circuit. We model the error estimation problem as a maximum a posteriori (MAP) estimate [28,29], over the joint error probability function of the entire circuit, calculated efficiently through an intelligent search of the entire input space using probabilistic traversal of a binary Join tree using Shenoy-Shafer algorithm [20,21]. We demonstrate this model using MCNC and ISCAS benchmark circuits and validate it using an equivalent HSpice model. Both results yield the same worst-case input vectors and the highest percentage difference of our error model over HSpice is just 1.23%. We observe that the maximum error probabilities are significantly larger than the average error probabilities, and provides a much tighter error bounds for fault-tolerant computation. We also find that the error estimates depend on the specific circuit structure and the maximum error probabilities are sensitive to the individual gate failure probabilities. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.