MgO is a chemically stable buffer layer and a good candidate with its unique optical and structural characteristics such as low refractive index and good lattice matching for the deposition of technologically important materials. In this work, we have produced MgO films by a low cost ultrasonic spray pyrolysis technique and tried to improve their characteristics by thermal annealing. MgO films have been obtained on glass substrates at 325 +/- 5 degrees C and annealed at two different temperatures as 500 degrees C and 600 degrees C for 2 h. Elemental analyses have been made by energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Thicknesses, refractive indices and extinction coefficient values have been determined by spectroscopic ellipsometry technique using Cauchy-Urbach model. Band gap values of the films have been calculated using the absorbance spectra and optical method. X-ray diffraction patterns have been used to investigate the structural properties and to calculate lattice parameters. Atomic force microscope images have been taken to see the effect of thermal annealing on surface morphology. Electrical resistivity values of the films have been determined using a four-point probe set-up. As a result, annealing temperature has a strong effect on the mentioned properties and a low cost ultrasonic spray pyrolysis technique allows the production of new and alternative MgO buffer layers for technological applications. (c) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.