Topology optimization is a countermeasure to obtain lightweight and stiff structures for machine tools. Topology optimizations are applied at component level due to computational limitations, therefore linear guides' rolling elements are underestimated in most of the cases. Stiffness of the entire assembly depends on the least stiff components which are identified as linear guides in the current literature. In this study, effects of linear guide's representation in virtual environment are investigated at assembly level by focusing on topology optimization. Two different contact models are employed for rolling elements in the linear guides. Reliability of the contact models are verified with experiments. After the verification, heavy duty cutting conditions are considered for the system and topology optimization is performed for two different contact models to reduce the mass of the structure. The difference caused by the representation of rolling elements is demonstrated for the same topology algorithm and the optimization results are compared for the models. Lastly, the effect of using more stiff linear guides in the five-axis milling machine is investigated by increasing the stiffness of the contact elements. (C) 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.