OS X Lion: Reclaiming the System Profiler Application

Ah, Snow Leopard’s System Profiler. It helped me identify problems with my machine, learn all sorts of things about its inner workings, and find out that I had programs installed from when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But in Lion, it seems to have been replaced by a pretty-but-less-informative version of itself. Here’s how you can get back to that very detailed application (and check out the awesome design of the new interface along the way).

If you click on the Apple Menu in the upper-left of your screen and choose About This Mac, you’ll be taken to the familiar basic window with a little information on it.


Choose “More Info” from there, though, and you’ll be treated to Apple’s new extended dance mix of the About This Mac window. It’s well-designed and helpful, and for most users, what they’ll find there is all they’ll ever need, even for things like upgrading RAM. You’ll want to use the tabs across the top to navigate.


Here’s the info under the Storage tab. It’s so easy to see what you have and how much. Man, I need more stuff!


And here’s the Memory tab, complete with a link to the instructions for upgrading your RAM.


This is where you start being sad, though. In Snow Leopard, when you followed the steps above, you’d open the System Profiler application. While it may not have been necessary for everyone, it was an incredibly helpful tool for troubleshooters and power users. Where is the program that used to let me insert a disc, choose “Disc Burning” from its sidebar, and then learn about the actions my Mac could perform on that particular disc? What if I need more detailed hardware information? Never fear, that capability is not gone. 

The first thing to make note of is that the program isn’t using the same name anymore. Both the redesigned About This Mac and the former System Profiler—now labeled the System Report—are lumped under the new System Information application. That’s a lot of using the word “System,” my friends.


Here again is the About This Mac part of the System Information program. Note one of the ways to access the System Report.


And here’s the System Report. Detail-a-palooza.


The first (and easiest) way to pull up the more detailed report is by holding down the Option key while you’ve got the Apple Menu open. When you do so, “About This Mac” will change to “System Information,” and clicking on it will give you instant System Report goodness. You can also click the appropriate button under the Overview tab from About This Mac (see screenshot above). Lastly, if you open the System Information application from Spotlight, by navigating to Applications > Utilities, or from Launchpad, by default you’ll open the System Report. It’s a bit confusing, but overall, I think dividing the program up into two parts—one for those who may just need a basic overview, and one for the power users—was a good call on Apple’s part. I just wish they’d think of different names.

And one final note: there are keyboard shortcuts for opening or switching between those windows when you’ve already got the System Information application open. To see the bee-you-ti-ful About This Mac information, use Command-I. To switch to the System Report, hit Command-N.