We describe an optical system for 3-D profilometry based on the white light interferometer. Recently many different methods have been used to analyze the data obtained from white light interferometric profilers. Many commercially available white light profilers are also in use today. We detail a simple way to construct a profiler that uses two simple and efficient algorithms. It deals with the data in a fast and simple manner, thus reducing both the acquisition and analysis time. The system has a theoretically unlimited range and can profile both optically rough and smooth surfaces. © 1998 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.