A model to compute the strain relaxation rate in InxGa1-xAs/GaAs single layers has been tested on several compositionally graded buffer layers. The existence of a critical elastic energy has been assumed as a criterion for the generation of new misfit dislocations. The surface strain accuracy results are within 2.5×10-4. The influence of different grading laws and growth conditions on residual strain, threading dislocation density, misfit dislocation confinement, and surface morphology has been studied. The probability of dislocation interaction and work hardening has been shown to strongly influence the mobility and the generation rate of the dislocations. Optimization of the growth conditions removes residual strain asymmetries and smoothes the surface roughness. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.