For many Mac users, there comes a time when a RAM memory or disk drive upgrade is an appealing luxury or simply a necessity. For the past several Macintosh model iterations, Apple has not discouraged end-users from performing their own RAM replacement.
On the contrary, with many of the recent iMac models, as well as MacBook and MacBook Pro models (prior to the ones with sealed batteries), Apple has included friendly diagrams depicting the procedure for replacing the RAM memory modules. On most iMac Models, this little visual guide is etched onto the bottom of the pedestal base. On most MacBook and MacBook Pro models, you will find this information inside the battery compartment.
As the entire Macintosh product line has evolved, physical specifications for RAM memory and other components have changed as well. Servicing instructions and procedures have also been revised. When servicing a Mac or purchasing parts and upgrades, there are a couple of important pieces of information to have at hand which help identify your specific Mac model. Armed with this information, there is no question as to exactly which of the many Mac variants you own, and the chances of purchasing the wrong parts are diminished.
But there is more to this than concern for hardware parts compatibility. As we have seen in OS X upgrades in the past, and more recently when upgrading to Mountain Lion, certain Mac models drop off the support list for the new Big Cat. And so, we have yet another example of needing to identify precisely which model Mac we want to upgrade (hopefully).
So, where does one find all this critical information? Allow me to show you.
Depending on whether you use OS X Snow Leopard and earlier, or Lion and later, the details for machine specifications are presented a little differently. In fact, starting with Lion, they are displayed in a more visually informative, much "friendlier" manner.
Go to the Apple menu and select About This Mac.
Selecting About This Mac in the Apple menu gets you to all your Mac's technical specifications.
The About This Mac panel is the gateway to all the technical specifications as well as other useful information pertaining to your particular machine. This is especially important when you call for technical support as you are often asked to provide the information shown here. For all OS X users, in the first panel that appears, you are already presented with lots of valuable information: the OS X version number, the processor type and speed, and the amount and specifications of the RAM memory currently installed.
Let's pause here a moment while I point out a little-known feature. If you point and click on the "Version" line just below the Apple OS X logo, you will be able to flip through additional information, including the serial number – another vital piece of information. You should jot this number down, both for support reasons and perhaps for insurance purposes. If you would rather copy/paste the serial number, in a moment I will show you another place where you can do this.
Getting back on topic… you get your official model designators by clicking on the More Info… button in the About This Mac panel. Here's where things differ a bit depending on which OS X version is running. Clicking on this button will launch an application called either System Information in Lion and later, or Apple System Profiler for earlier versions (these are located in Applications > Utilities). They both provide the same functionality: to furnish you with a wealth of technical information specific to your Mac.
Starting with Lion, the "More Info" button leads to more descriptive information than before.
As illustrated above, for Lion and later, you will immediately see a panel showing you an overview of your Mac's specifications. The Mac's Model Name appears in big, bold text at the top. There is additional information as well. Here, you will also find your Mac's serial number which is copyable text for later pasting elsewhere.
Don't ignore the tabbed options available at the top of this panel. There's plenty more information available there, much of which is presented graphically - such as your data storage and memory configurations.
For Lion and later, we can see a visual representation of our data storage.
Lion and Mountain Lion users should note that you also have tabs for Support and for Service which provide more information specifically for your machine. Users of OS X earlier than Lion will not have this capability directly. If you fall in this camp, you can plug your Mac's serial number into a specific page on Apple's support website to gather support and service information about your Mac, such as the official model name and your warranty/AppleCare status.
Go to support.apple.com. At the bottom of the page, in the "Other Resources" section, click on the "Check your service & support coverage" link. You will then see a field where you can enter the serial number, after which you will be shown the information specific to your Mac.
Now, go back to the Overview panel, and click on the System Report button. This opens the legacy panel providing a complete readout of all technical specifications of your Mac. By the way, this is also what Snow Leopard and earlier users will see as a result of clicking on the More Info button in the About This Mac panel. So, this System Report provided by the System Information and the Apple System Profiler applications is available to all users.
Clicking on the "System Report" button presents even more information.
Here, in the System Report, is where I want you to notice one other important piece of information that, for example, many RAM memory vendors require before they complete the sale. It is called the Model Identifier. It always takes a very specific form. For example, my MacBook Pro's model identifier is: MacBookPro8,2. This is an internal identifier that is often used programmatically to verify hardware configuration.
In conclusion, when needing to determine your Mac's upgrade qualifications, when requesting support for your Mac, or when you need to purchase hardware upgrades, keep these three pieces of information handy, and know where to find them:
The Mac Model: [e.g.; MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2011)]
The Model Identifier: [e.g.; MacBookPro8,2]
The Serial Number
As we've seen, the System Report provides valuable information for both troubleshooting and for properly identifying a Mac model. If you're at all curious about the internal workings of your Mac, or you are in troubleshooting mode, consider perusing all the fascinating information available to you via the About This Mac functionality described in this article.
If nothing else, the System Report makes for delightful afternoon of reading while relaxing with a nice cold beverage!