Abstract Chemically deposited CdS window layers were studied on two different transparent conductive substrates, namely indium tin oxide (ITO) and fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO), to determine the influence of their properties on CdS/CdTe solar cells performance. Three types of CdS films obtained from different chemical bath deposition (CBD) processes were studied. The three CBD processes employed sodium citrate as the complexing agent in partial or full substitution of ammonia. The CdS films were studied by X-ray diffraction, optical transmission spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy. CdS/CdTe devices were completed by depositing 3 μm thick CdTe absorbent layers by means of the close-spaced vapor transport technique (CSVT). Evaporated Cu–Au was used as the back contact in all the solar cells. Dark and under illumination J–V characteristic and quantum efficiency measurements were done on the CdS/CdTe devices to determine their conversion efficiency and spectral response. The efficiency of the cells depended on the window layer and on the transparent contact with values between 5.7% and 8.7%.