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In this paper, we report on the surface passivation of crystalline silicon (c-Si) by pulsed-dc (p-dc) reactive-sputtered aluminum oxide (AlOx) films. For the activation of surface passivation, the films were subjected to post deposition annealing (PDA) in different ambients namely N2, N2 + O2, and forming gas (FG) in the temperature range of 420-520°C. The surface passivation was quantified by surface recombination velocity, which was correlated to the interface states at the silicon-dielectric interface and fixed charges in the dielectric. A good quality surface passivation with effective surface recombination velocity Seff of 41 cm · s-1 is obtained for PDA in N2 or N2 + O2 gas ambient. PDA in FG ambient at high temperature is found to degrade the passivation. The AlOx film annealed in FG ambient shows poorer thermal stability as compared with films annealed in the other two ambients. A clear path for further improvements in surface passivation quality of p-dc reactive sputter-deposited AlOx is suggested based on cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis and electrical data.