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We have developed a novel form of magnetic force microscopy that uses a commercial piezoelectric quartz tuning fork to detect magnetic forces and force gradients. Such a detection system is extremely simple and inexpensive, compared to conventional optical methods of cantilever vibration detection. The setup is, in addition, characterized by small size, which makes it attractive for studies done in constrained spaces. The instrument is first described, then theoretical comparison of signal to noise ratio and resolution is made with the conventional optical detection techniques of cantilever vibration, and finally, first images of thin film media commercial hard disk magnetic bit transitions, point response of magnetoresistive elements, and field gradients above the write gap of a commercial hard disk head are presented. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.