Nucleic acid fragmentation (footprinting) by ·OH radicals is used often as a tool to probe nucleic acid structure and nucleic acid–protein interactions. This method has proven valuable because it provides structural information with single base pair resolution. Recent developments in the field introduced the ‘synchrotron X-ray footprinting’ method, which uses a high-flux X-ray source to produce single base pair fragmentation of nucleic acid in tens of milliseconds. We developed a complementary method that utilizes X-rays generated from a conventional rotating anode machine in which nucleic acid footprints can be generated by X-ray exposures as short as 100–300 ms. Our theoretical and experimental studies indicate that efficient cleavage of nucleic acids by X‐rays depends upon sample preparation, energy of the X-ray source and the beam intensity. In addition, using this experimental set up, we demonstrated the feasibility of conducting X-ray footprinting to produce protein–DNA protection portraits at sub-second timescales.