Tungsten/carbon (W/C) multilayer thin films prepared by sputtering on unheated Si(100) substrates were encapsulated with various types of layer having low x-ray absorption. Isochronal annealings for 1 hr in the temperature range from 300 to 600 degree(s)C and isothermal annealings at 300 and 400 degree(s)C were carried out under ambient conditions (in air) on coated and uncoated multilayers. The encapsulated layers are: SiNx and SiO2 prepared by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) and SiC, Al2O3, C and B4C prepared by sputtering techniques. Previous studies have shown that unprotected W/C multilayers annealed in air exhibit oxidation at relatively low temperatures (approximately 300 degree(s)C). In the present study, we have used Raman scattering (RS), Auger depth profiling and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to investigate the effects of thermal treatments on the encapsulated W/C multilayers. The results indicate that oxidation of both W and C layers takes place during annealing at temperatures which depend on the type of protective layer. For example, in the isochronal annealing experiments, multilayers coated with C, Al2O3 and B4C suffer oxidation during annealing at 400 degree(s)C, whereas multilayers coated with the other three types of protective films prevent multilayers from oxidation at annealing temperatures as high as 600 degree(s)C. SEM micrographs show that the formation of pinholes through the protective layer occurred during annealing at the temperatures for which oxidation was first detected. Auger profiling shows the loss of compositional modulation in the region reached by oxygen. A WO3 phase is identified by RS in the oxidized region, and the loss of the C layers is most likely due to the formation of carbon oxide vapors.