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Thin films of magnetic and nonmagnetic constituents of spin-valve and magnetic tunnel junction multilayers were deposited using magnetron sputtering techniques as a function of argon pressure. Depositions in the sub-milli-Torr pressure regime have greatly improved film surface smoothness but also induced significant changes in film stress and, therefore, magnetostriction. The comparable values of magnetic thickness loss generated at various magnetic/nonmagnetic interfaces by the sub-milli-Torr deposition suggests comparable energetic deposition to ion beam deposition. A proper selection of deposition conditions for the component layers is critical to ensure optimal performance of spin-valve and magnetic tunnel junction multilayers.