Type-I interferons (IFNs) induce the expression of hundreds of cellular genes, some of which have direct antiviral activities. Although IFNs restrict different steps of HIV replication cycle, their dominant antiviral effect remains unclear. We first quantified the inhibition of HIV replication by IFN in tissue culture, using viruses with different tropism and growth kinetics. By combining experimental and mathematical analyses, we determined quantitative estimates for key parameters of HIV replication and inhibition, and demonstrate that IFN mainly inhibits de novo infection (33% and 47% for a X4- and a R5-strain, respectively), rather than virus production (15% and 6% for the X4 and R5 strains, respectively). This finding is in agreement with patient-derived data analyses.