Model based methods for fault identification in rotating systems are gaining importance for the last three decades due to their ability to identify both location and severity of the fault. Model based methods are of different types. Among them, equivalent loads minimization method is one method. In this method, fault is identified in a rotor bearing system by minimizing difference between equivalent loads estimated in the system due to the fault and theoretical fault model loads. This method has a limitation that the error in identified fault parameters increases with decrease in number of measured vibrations. Thus a comprehensive methodology for fault identification with minimum error even in case of fewer measured vibrations is attempted in the present work. Two different approaches: equivalent loads minimization and vibration minimization method are applied for the identification of unbalance fault in a rotor system. Unbalance fault is identified using proposed methods by measuring transverse vibrations at only one location. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.