This paper presents a tuning approach based on a tabu search algorithm (TSA) to obtain the optimal proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller parameters in order to achieve a desired transient response. TSA is used to determine the main parameters of the PID controller. The performance of the PID controlled system is examined by considering the characteristics of the step response of the plant. Simulation results demonstrate that the tabu algorithm based approach is one of the useful methods for PID controller tuning, and using by the presented method, performance of the controlled system can be significantly improved according to the given control specifications. (C) 2011 The Franklin Institute. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.