The rubbing fault is a very serious and frequent malfunction in rotating machinery, and the determination of the rubbing location is very important in actual fault diagnosis. In this paper, a method based on genetic algorithms to detect the rubbing location is presented. The finite element model of the rubbing rotor is established with the rubbing location, the stator stiffness, the clearance between stator and rotor, the damping coefficient and the friction coefficient as the fault parameters, and the rubbing location determination is transferred into the parameter identification problem. The genetic algorithm is then utilized to search the solution. Using genetic algorithms avoids some of the weaknesses of traditional parameter identification methods such as local minimum problem in nonlinear system identification. The experimental results suggest that the rubbing location can be effectively determined when the rubbing occurs.