The purpose of this in vitro study was to evaluate the effect of surface defects and cross-sectional configuration of NiTi rotary files on the fatigue life under cyclic loading. Three NiTi rotary files (K3(TM), ProFile(R), and HERO 642(R)) with #30/.04 taper were evaluated. Each rotary file was divided into 2 subgroups: control (no surface defects) and experimental group (artificial surface defects). A total of six groups of each 10 were tested. The NiTi rotary files were rotated at 300rpm using the apparatus which simulated curved canal (40 degree of curvature) until they fracture. The number of cycles to fracture was calculated and the fractured surfaces were observed with a scanning electron microscope. The data were analyzed statistically. The results showed that experimental groups with surface defects had lower number of cycles to fracture than control group but there was only a statistical significance between control and experimental group in the K3(TM) (p<0.05). There was no strong correlation between the cross-sectional configuration area and fracture resistance under experimental conditions. Several of fractured files demonstrated characteristic patterns of brittle fracture consistent with the propagation of pre-existing cracks. This data indicate that surface defects of NiTi rotary files may significantly decrease fatigue life and it may be one possible factor for early fracture of NiTi rotary files in clinical practice.