In this paper, a novel design method for determining the optimal proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller parameters of an AVR system using the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm is presented. This paper demonstrated in detail how to employ the PSO method to search efficiently the optimal PID controller parameters of an AVR system. The proposed approach had superior features, including easy implementation, stable convergence characteristic, and good computational efficiency. Fast tuning of optimum PID controller parameters yields high-quality solution. In order to assist estimating the performance of the proposed PSO-PID controller, a new time-domain performance criterion function was also defined. Compared with the genetic algorithm (GA), the proposed method was indeed more efficient and robust in improving the step response of an AVR system.