The last decade has witnessed the development of a variety of metal nanoparticle-based techniques for DNA detection. High sensitivity and specificity, miniaturization, and cost-efficient detection are problems addressed by the use of nanoparticle labels in heterogeneous DNA detection schemes. The small label size, established bioconjugation chemistry, and the unusual optical and electrical properties of metal nanoparticles make them unique tools for DNA detection. This paper reviews the different physical characteristics of metal nanoparticles and their implementation in assays. It covers various optical as well as gravimetric, electrochemical and electrical methods for analysing nanoparticle-labelled analytes, and particularly DNA, at sensing surfaces.