Ti-Si-N coatings with different silicon contents (0-12 at.%) were deposited onto Si(1 0 0) wafer, AISI M42 high speed steel, and stainless steel plate, respectively. These coatings were characterized and analyzed by using a variety of analytical techniques, such as XRD, AES, SEM, XPS, nanoindentation measurements, Rockwell C-type indentation tester, and scratch tester. The results revealed that the hardness was strongly correlated to the amount of silicon addition into a growing TiN film. The maximum hardness of 47.1 GPa was achieved as the Si content was 8.6 at.%. In the mechanical and oxidation resistance measurements, the Ti-Si-N coatings showed three distinct behaviors. (i) The coatings with Si contents of no more than 8.6 at.% performed good adhesion strength quality onto the HSS substrates. (ii) The fracture toughness of the coatings decreased with the increase in Si content. (iii) The Ti-Si-N coating with 8.6 at.% Si showed the excellent oxidation resistance behavior. The cutting performance under using coolant conditions was also evaluated by a conventional drilling machine. The drills with Ti-Si-N coatings performed much better than the drills with TiN coating and the uncoated drills. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.