Sub- flying head-disk interfaces (HDIs) designed to attain extremely high areal recording densities of the order of are susceptible to strong adhesive forces, which can lead to subsequent contact, bouncing vibration, and high friction. Accurate prediction of the relevant interfacial forces can help ensure successful implementation of ultra-low flying HDIs. In this study, an improved rough surface model is developed to estimate the adhesive, contact, and friction forces as well as the mean contact pressure relevant to sub- HDIs. The improved model was applied to four different HDIs of varying roughness and contact conditions, and was compared to the sub-boundary lubrication rough surface model. It was found that the interfacial forces in HDIs undergoing primarily elastic-plastic and plastic contact are more accurately predicted with the improved model, while under predominantly elastic contact conditions, the two models give similar results. The improved model was then used to systematically investigate the effect of roughness parameters on the interfacial forces and mean contact pressure (response). The trends in the responses were investigated via a series of regression models using a full factorial design. It was found that the adhesive and net normal interfacial forces increase with increasing mean radius of asperities when the mean separation is small , i.e., pseudo-contacting interface, but it increases primarily with increasing root-mean-square (rms) surface height roughness between 2 and , i.e., pseudo-flying interface. Also, increasing rms roughness and decreasing , increases the contact force and mean contact pressure, while the same design decreases the friction force. As the directions of optimization for minimizing the individual interfacial forces are not the same, simultaneous optimization is required for a successful ultra-low flying HDI design.