X-ray diffraction has been used to measure the stress, the crystallite size and the dislocation distribution in thin metal layers. By measuring two orders of a reflection, the contribution of the size distribution to the diffraction line broadening can be eliminated. A model equation is fitted to the strain Fourier coefficients of the diffraction line from which the dislocation arrangement can be obtained. For untextured nickel on steel or on silicon the dislocation densities have been obtained. It is demonstrated that for highly textured layers more information can be obtained than for untextured layers. It was found that a heated molybdenum layer on oxidized silicon showed only inclined screw dislocations.