Laser surface treatment of Rene 41 high-performance alloy is carried out with the presence of hard particles at the surface. B4C and SiC particles are uniformly distributed within 40 µm carbon film at the workpiece surface prior to laser treatment process. The effect of hard particles on residual stress and microhardness variations is investigated at the treated surface. Morphological and metallurgical changes in the treated layer are examined by using electron microscopy, energy dispersive spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction. Residual stress formed at the surface is determined from the X-ray data. It is found that the treated surface is free from asperities such as large size voids and cracks. A dense layer is formed in the surface region, which causes volume shrinkage while contributing to microhardness and residual stress enhancement at the surface. B4C hard particles result in the highest residual stress and microhardness at the surface, which is attributed to its high thermal expansion coefficient. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.