The residual damage incurred to GaAs via etching with a Cl2/Ar plasma generated by an electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) source was investigated as a function of variations in ion energy, ion flux, and etching temperature. The residual damage and electrical properties of GaAs were strongly influenced by changes in these etching parameters. Lattice damage was incurred in all processing situations in the form of small dislocation loops. GaAs etched at high ion energies with 200 W rf power, exhibited a defect density five times higher than GaAs etched at lower ion energies with 20 W rf power. This enhanced residual damage at the higher rf powers was paralleled by a degradation in the unannealed contact resistance. Higher etch rates, which accompany the higher rf power levels, caused the width of the disordered region to contract as the rf power was elevated. Therefore, the residual etch damage is influenced by both the generation and removal of defects. Increasing the microwave power or ion flux resulted in elevating the residual defect density, surface roughness, and unannealed contact resistance. GaAs etched at high temperatures, ∼350 °C, resulted in a lower contact resistance than GaAs etched at 25 °C. The high temperature etching augmented the defect diffusion which in turn lowered the near surface defect density. This decrease in residual damage was deemed responsible for improving the electrical performance at 350 °C. The electrical measurements were found to be more sensitive to the density of defects than the vertical extent of disorder beneath the etched surface. Results of this investigation demonstrate that in order to minimize material damage and improve electrical performance, etching with an ECR source should be performed at low rf and microwave powers with a high substrate temperature. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.