The present invention provides an improved top spin valve and method of fabrication. In the preferred embodiment of the top spin valve of the present invention, a seed layer is formed of non-magnetic material having the elements Ni and Cr. In the preferred embodiments, the seed layer material has an ion milling rate comparable to that of the free layer material. This allows free layer sidewalls to be formed with shorter tails, improving free layer-to-magnetic bias layer junction, thus improving free layer domain structure and track width. In one embodiment, the seed layer may have NiFeCr, with Cr from about 20% to 50%. In another embodiment, the seed layer may have NiCr, with about 40%. Some embodiments may have the seed layer formed on an optional Ta pre-seed layer. Such embodiments provide an improved fcc (111) texture particularly for NiFe and for NiFe/CoFe free layers grown on a seed layer improving spin valve performance, and especially in embodiments having very thin NiFe free layers, ultra thin NiFe free layers, and free layers without NiFe, such as a free layer of CoFe. Such a seed layer can improve AFM pinning layer texture to improve the exchange bias, thus providing better thermal stability. Such a seed layer also provides high resistivity and can improve the magnetostriction of adjacent NiFe free layer material or improve the soft properties of an adjacent CoFe free layer.