Abstract A two-dimensional finite-difference method was applied to study the thermal behavior of thin films irradiated by a pulsed Gaussian laser beam. In particular, the method was applied to rare-earth/transition-metal alloyed films for magneto-optic recording. The effects of film parameters (thermal conductivity, specific heat, absorption coefficient, and film thickness) and laser parameters (output power and pulse duration) on healing and cooling behavior were investigated extensively. The temperature profile of a film was sensitively dependent on these parameters. The results might be used to predict the recorded bit size and to optimize the laser parameters. For a given energy density of the laser beam, a large output power with a short pulse width was desirable for effective heating of a film. Heating by radial thermal diffusion became important with increasing thermal conductivity of a film. Therefore, to achieve high storage density, a film must have low thermal conductivity.