Widespread use of computed tomography, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging has led to an increase in detection of relatively small renal masses, and approaches to managing them have evolved in the last two decades. Indications for nephron-sparing surgery have expanded, and minimally invasive procedures, which can confer advantages over open surgery, are now available. Ablative techniques offer a combination of nephron-sparing and minimally invasive approaches. Ablative techniques include cryoablation, radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). Cryoablation and RFA have been relatively safe. HIFU has been associated with serious side effects in animal models, and is not yet acceptable for use in humans. Ablative techniques require long-term studies to confirm lasting efficacy. The best modality for tumor targeting, monitoring of therapy, and follow-up is still under investigation. Debate exists regarding the best method for ensuring adequate intraoperative tumor cryoablation. For minimally invasive ablative measures to gain a place as nephron-sparing approaches, they should show both equivalent efficacy and reduced morbidity relative to those of open partial nephrectomy. These techniques should currently be reserved for selected patients and should be compared to the evolving modality of laparoscopic partial nephrectomy.