This paper focuses on the design of the optimal scanning mode for the family of scanning probe microscopes. Based on different values of the maximum acceleration (deceleration) rate and maximum speed of X- and Y- axes of the mechanical scanner encountered in practice due to different mechanical design and loads, the design procedure of the optimal fast scanning mode is presented, which is found to be sensitive to the specific parameters of the scanning motion. By utilizing the simultaneous motion of the two axes, the fast raster scanning mode proposed can improve the scanning efficiency by 29% when comparing with the conventional raster (CR) scanning mode, if the scanning speeds of both axes are identical. In addition, the optimal fast mode provided by us has no effects on the image accuracy such as image degradation, image distortion when the efficiency is evaluated. No further difficulties are introduced to the control of the mechanical scanner and the data acquisition process. This optimal scanning mode is useful when the response time of the probe is very fast (such as ultrasonic probe in scanning acoustic microscope (SAM)), and the main limitations are due to the mechanical scanner. By applying different loads for both axes, the experiments with different scanning areas and scanning modes are conducted in a self-developed SAM. Experimental results coincide with the theoretical analysis and confirm the validation of our proposed optimal fast scanning mode and its superiority over the CR scanning mode. SCANNING 36:185–193, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.