Uniaxial quasi-static tensile testing on individual nanocrystalline Co nanowires (NWs), synthesized by electrochemical deposition process (EDP) in porous templates, was performed inside a scanning electron microscope (SEM) using a microfabricated tensile stage consisting of a comb drive actuator and a clamped–clamped beam force sensor. A 'three-beam structure' was fabricated by focused ion beam induced deposition (FIBID) on the stage, from which the specimen elongation and the tensile force could be measured simultaneously from SEM images at high magnification. A novel strategy of modifying device topography, e.g. in the form of trenches and pillars, was proposed to facilitate in situ SEM pick-and-place nanomanipulation, which could achieve a high yield of about 80% and reduce the difficulties in specimen preparation for tensile testing at the nanoscale. The measured apparent Young's modulus (75.3 ± 14.6) GPa and tensile strength (1.6 ± 0.4) GPa are significantly lower than the bulk modulus and the theoretical strength of monocrystalline samples, respectively. This result is important for designing Co NW-based devices. The origins of these distinctions are discussed in terms of the stiffnesses of the soldering portions, specimen misalignment, microstructure of the NWs and the experimental measurement uncertainty.