A fast screening technique is used to study the ALD HfO2 growth behavior on different types of starting surfaces (H-passivated, chemical oxide, thermal oxide). The amount of Hf deposited at the early stages of the ALD process is measured by means of RBS. The HfO2 film quality on different starting surfaces is examined with ToFSIMS. The results suggest an island growth mechanism on a H-terminated starting surface: nucleation, development of separated nuclei and flattening. It is shown that ALD growth starts faster if –OH groups are present on the surface. A remote H2 plasma surface pre-treatment at room temperature is also studied. The influence of the plasma exposure time and number of water pulses prior to HfO2 deposition was examined. The H2 plasma surface pre-treatment can be considered as a promising candidate for sub 1 nm EOT performance.