We describe the results of two-dimensional finite difference analysis of the thermal profile, in both transient and steady state, of a symmetric U-shape designed high-sensitive nanocalorimeter. The thin film calorimeter, with a heat capacity of 100 nJ K-1 at room temperature, consists of a 180 nm thick freestanding silicon-rich nitride membrane on which thin film heaters and sensors are deposited. Simulated temperature profiles are in good agreement with in situ experimental data obtained at the heater and sensor locations. The first-order solid-to-liquid transition of indium films, from a few Å to hundreds of nm thick, was used as an experimental reference of the thermal profiles obtained from the 2D modeling. Temperature differences inside the sample region induced by the symmetric U-shape design of the Pt heaters limit the use of the nanocalorimeter to two different heating rate regimes. At low heating rates, β < 10 K s-1, especially with a thermal layer, the temperature profile is reasonably flat so that small samples can be characterized in power compensation mode. At heating rates faster than 4 × 104 K s-1 the nanocalorimeter works in adiabatic mode and measures transitions occurring in the sample directly loaded underneath the heater. © 2006 IOP Publishing Ltd.