The effect of carbide precipitates with a size range of 30-300 nm on the austenite to martensite transformation has been studied. Such particles are known to enhance shape memory, and it was the aim of this work to clarify how the particles exert a favourable effect on shape memory. Differential scanning calorimetry revealed that the presence of particles increases the amount of thermally induced martensite. X-ray diffraction showed that the presence of particles increases the amount of stress-induced martensite also. Surface-relief produced on a pre-polished surface by bending deformation showed that the particle-containing samples exhibited a more complex and highly tilted surface-relief indicative of the formation of a larger volume fraction of martensite. The reversion characteristics of the particle-containing and solution-treated samples were similar: both showed co-reversion of multiple variants of martensite within the same volume of microstructure. However, a higher volume fraction of martensite reverted for the particle-containing sample on recovery annealing. The increased density of nucleation sites for martensite formation and a higher volume fraction of stress-induced martensite for a given strain are therefore considered to be the main contributions of relatively coarse carbide particles to the improvement of shape memory performance. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007.