Pointing errors due to retroreflector arrays in compact common path/common mode adaptive optical systems are studied theoretically and experimentally. A mathematical expression for calculating the maximum pointing error is derived. The maximum pointing error is determined using the following factors: the number of subapertures of the retroreflector array, the RMS value of the slope of the retroreflector aberration, and the RMS and mean values of the transmitted beam intensity distribution. The principle behind the effect of the retroreflector array on the pointing error of the CP/CM system is discussed in this paper. Experimental results show that (i) the intensity nonuniformity significantly affects the pointing error, with the exception of the retroreflector aberration when the retroreflector array for the CP/CM system was designed, (ii) the pointing error can be controlled to sub-microradian levels. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.