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A fast algorithm for iterative nonlinear finite element analysis is presented in this paper. The algorithm replaces updated permeability by an equivalent magnetization current and moves it to the source current term. Once the initial system matrix is decomposed in the LU form, the iterative procedure involves the trivial step of back-substitution from the LU form. Consequently, the computation time for the nonlinear analysis is greatly reduced. A numerical model of a cylindrical conductor enclosed with saturable iron is tested to validate the proposed algorithm. Numerical results are compared with those obtained using conventional Newton–Raphson algorithm in respect to accuracy and computational time. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.