The present study compares the performance of microarc oxidation (MAO) and hard anodizing (HA) treated Al-Mg-Si alloy (AA6063) test samples under cyclic loading in uniaxial tension with a stress ratio of 0.1 (plain fatigue) and fretting fatigue loading. Fatigue test specimens were treated using MAO and HA techniques. MAO coated specimens were ground to reduce the surface roughness comparable with that in HA coated specimens. In that process the porous outer layer was removed. Characterization of coated and uncoated specimens was done with reference to the coating morphology, microhardness, surface roughness and residual stress. The specimens were tested under plain fatigue and fretting fatigue loading at ambient temperature. While the ground MAO coating exhibited relatively less amount of porosity, HA coating had through thickness cracks. MAO coating had compressive residual stress and it was very hard compared with HA coating. Both types of coated samples exhibited slightly higher friction force than that experienced by the uncoated specimens. Fretted region of the HA coated samples was rougher than that of the MAO coated specimens. Plain fatigue lives of both coated samples were inferior to those of the uncoated specimens. The inferior plain fatigue lives of MAO coated specimens compared with those of the substrate may be attributed to the tensile residual stresses supposedly present in the substrate leading to an early crack initiation in the substrate adjacent to the coating. As friction force of MAO coated samples was higher than that experienced by uncoated specimens, the fretting fatigue lives of MAO coated samples were slightly inferior to those of uncoated samples. As the anodized layer had preexisting through thickness cracks and strong adhesion with the substrate, cracks propagated from HA coating through the interface into the substrate easily. This may be the reason for the HA coated samples exhibiting inferior plain fatigue and fretting fatigue lives compared with MAO coated and uncoated samples. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.