Abstract The substantial amount of information carried in temperature-programmed desorption (TPD) experiments is often difficult to mine due to the occurrence of competing reaction pathways that produce compounds with similar mass spectrometric features. Multivariate curve resolution (MCR) is introduced as a tool capable of overcoming this problem by mathematically detecting spectral variations and correlations between several m/z traces, which is later translated into the extraction of the cracking pattern and the desorption profile for each desorbate. Different from the elegant (though complex) methods currently available to analyze TPD data, MCR analysis is applicable even when no information regarding the specific surface reaction/desorption process or the nature of the desorbing species is available. However, when available, any information can be used as constraints that guide the outcome, increasing the accuracy of the resolution. This approach is especially valuable when the compounds desorbing are different from what would be expected based on a chemical intuition, when the cracking pattern of the model test compound is difficult or impossible to obtain (because it could be unstable or very rare), and when knowing major components desorbing from the surface could in more traditional methods actually bias the quantification of minor components. The enhanced level of understanding of thermal processes achieved through MCR analysis is demonstrated by analyzing three phenomena: i) the cryogenic desorption of vinyltrimethylsilane from silicon, an introductory system where the known multilayer and monolayer components are resolved; ii) acrolein hydrogenation on a bimetallic Pt–Ni–Pt catalyst, where a rapid identification of hydrogenated products as well as other desorbing species is achieved, and iii) the thermal reaction of Ti[N(CH 3) 2] 4 on Si(100), where the products of surface decomposition are identified and an estimation of the surface composition after the thermal reaction is afforded. Since this work constitutes, to the best of our knowledge, the first effort to introduce multivariate analysis to TPD data, the procedures, algorithms and strategies employed are described in full detail.