Abstract De-noising and extraction of the weak signature are crucial to fault prognostics in which case features are often very weak and masked by noise. The wavelet transform has been widely used in signal de-noising due to its extraordinary time-frequency representation capability. In this paper, the performance of wavelet decomposition-based de-noising and wavelet filter-based de-noising methods are compared based on signals from mechanical defects. The comparison result reveals that wavelet filter is more suitable and reliable to detect a weak signature of mechanical impulse-like defect signals, whereas the wavelet decomposition de-noising method can achieve satisfactory results on smooth signal detection. In order to select optimal parameters for the wavelet filter, a two-step optimization process is proposed. Minimal Shannon entropy is used to optimize the Morlet wavelet shape factor. A periodicity detection method based on singular value decomposition (SVD) is used to choose the appropriate scale for the wavelet transform. The signal de-noising results from both simulated signals and experimental data are presented and both support the proposed method.