When looking to purchase a desktop computer or laptop, one of the first things you will find is a description of the machine’s hardware characteristics. Intuitively, we might know that an Intel i9 processor is better than i7, that 16GB of RAM is better than 8GB, or that a 1TB hard drive is better than a 500GB one. The higher the numbers, the better, right? However, your Mac system storage or its processor are not the only factors to consider when looking at a system’s components.
This article is for macOS users who wish to know how to access their detailed hardware information. To do so, we will use three tools readily available in all macOS systems: “About This Mac“, the Terminal and the “System information” tool.
For those using Windows 10, you can find the procedure HERE. As for those using Linux, you can find a dedicated article on this matter here.
Why is it important to identify your Mac’s system storage, processor, or RAM?
Knowing your system’s components is often necessary. By recognizing your computer’s specs, you will be able to adapt its intended usage to maintain your machine’s optimal functionality.
For instance, you might have the processor required to play the latest video games, but if you have little in terms of RAM, you will experience lags and crashes. Or, your Mac’s system storage might be enough to store thousands of Blu-ray movies but lacks the monitor’s retina display to play them at their best resolution.
It is also crucial to know your machine’s hardware when you want to use your Mac for one of the following:
- For work purposes, in fields where one has to deal with multimedia: audio engineering, video editing, and image retouching.
- You need to pair the software applications required for such procedures with modern hardware capable of rendering it all while maintaining the system’s performance.
- You also have to make sure that your Mac system storage is sufficient for raw files, .flac audio, and videos, which can be unusually voluminous.
- To install video games on your macOS (particularly ones released within the last year or two).
- Are your processor and graphics card recent enough to use the latest game engine technology and render the game at its optimal FPS?
- Is your RAM high enough to allow for smooth gameplay?
- To use more than one operating system on your machine.
- You need to know whether your computer meets the other OS hardware requirements.
- You also need to know whether your system can handle the OS itself. Indeed, when you install Linux on your Mac using a virtual machine (LINK ARTICLE), the second operating system takes up storage and memory. That can, in turn, lead to your primary OS crashing if it isn’t potent enough to host the VM while you use macOS simultaneously.
- When troubleshooting issues.
- Maybe the most technical of reasons, troubleshooting is nonetheless a reality that most of us have to face at one time or another. By knowing the brand and model of your Mac system storage, external peripherals, RAM, and processor, you will have the info you need to start your troubleshooting. Indeed, when dealing with a faulty trackpad or a wireless network card that stopped being able to connect to your home wifi, accessing your hardware info is crucial. Without knowing the name and variant of these components, you won’t be able to download and install the appropriate missing drivers. Or to find a compatible hardware replacement that could fix these issues.
- By the way, if you have an old Macbook Pro, you might want to consider upgrading your Mac system by changing its SSD storage. In that case, I recommend taking a look at Igor Degtiarenko’s how-to guide, which you can find in this MacPaw.com article.
So without any further due, here are the ways of accessing your Mac’s system information – including storage, USB ports, trackpad, keyboard, processor, wifi, Bluetooth, RAM, and more.
Gathering Your Basic macOS Hardware Information
You can gather your basic system specs from the Apple menu () by selecting “About This Mac.”
From there, an “Overview” window will appear, which will provide you with the following:
- Your macOS version (both its name and numbered version, e.g., macOS Mojave Version 10.14.6)
- Your processor
- Your RAM
- Your graphics card (VGA)
The “Displays” menu reiterates the graphics card information provided in the “Overview” menu. As for the “Storage,” it will provide you with information regarding your internal hard drive(s) and its storage space.
Get Your Mac System Storage Identifiers, Architecture and Network Peripherals Using the Terminal
For more information, you will need to use the command line. The Terminal can be used to gather information such as:
- Your system’s architecture
- The name (disk ID) attributed to your internal drive and USB flash drives (the latter being extremely useful when formatting a pen drive).
- The name of your network peripherals, such as the ethernet or wifi.
Note: The brand and model of your trackpad, built-in webcam, or other peripherals can be found using the integrative macOS System information tool. You will find out more about this tool later in this article.
Find out Your Mac System Architecture
Knowing your computer’s architecture is essential if you wish to dual-boot your Mac with another OS such as Windows 10 or Linux distributions. It is also required if you want to install Linux on your Mac by using a virtual machine. In both cases, you will need to know whether you use a processor based on the amd64 or the i386 architecture. Spoiler: If your current system runs Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or later, you have 64-bit. That is because Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is the last release that was compatible with Mac’s 32-bit Intel processor. In any case, it is easy to figure out which architecture you use.
Open the “Terminal” app and enter the following:
$ uname -m
Your machine’s architecture will be displayed. Those familiar with Linux might be tempted to use the “arch” command instead. However, do not use “$ arch” on macOS Mojave, as it will display the architecture your computer is CAPABLE of running. Your machine (-m) result will probably be x86-64 (the answer you are looking for), whereas using “arch” might give i386 as the output. And remember: if your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or Mac desktop computer was released in 2008 or later, it runs x86-64 (AMD64). If its release was in 2007, then it might run either AMD64 or i386.
Find out Your Mac System Storage Identifiers (Internal Drive and USB Flash Drives)
To gather this information, we will use the “diskutil list” command. You might be familiar with if you have read this website’s guide on how to format your pen drive (using integrated tools or the Terminal) or on how to burn a disc image on USB.
Open the Terminal and then enter:
The output will provide you with a full list of all your computer’s disks. Just remember that any disk described as “(internal, physical)” will be an internal hard drive, whereas any “(external, physical)” disk will be a USB flash drive, external hard drive or SD card.
Using this screenshot of my computer’s output as an example, we can see that my internal hard drive is “disk0” (/dev/disk0), whereas my two external flash drives are “disk3” (/dev/disk3) and “disk4” (/dev/disk4).
Find out Your Mac Network Peripherals
When troubleshooting network issues, you might have to identify your network devices and direct commands towards specific ones such as the wifi adapter or ethernet. To do so, you have to be able to provide the name associated with your network component. To find it, open the Terminal and enter:
You will find a list of all the available network devices, as well as their device name. As a side note, you can see from the example below that the name attributed to my wifi adapter is “en0”; usually, macOS uses this name for the ethernet (and “en1” for the wifi). Seeing as I own a MacBook Air (so no ethernet access), Mac attributed the name “en0” by default to the wifi.
Get Detailed Hardware Information Using Your macOS System Information Tool
Sometimes, you need to find out the brand and name of your faulty peripheral to fetch its missing firmware or update its drivers. This issue usually doesn’t happen on a Mac operating system, as it automatically updates its OS (including its original firmware) as needed. However, if you install Linux on your Mac, you might run into peripheral recognition issues when launching your new distribution. That is when the System information app comes in handy.
Found under the Apple menu () → “About This Mac” → “System Report…”, the System information provides information regarding all possible hardware present on your computer: Audio, Bluetooth, PCI, Ethernet, and much more.
And for those curious, the “Apple Internal Keyboard / Trackpad” and “Bluetooth USB Host Controller” are found under the “USB” menu.
Are You Looking for Accessories?
If your keyboard or trackpad isn’t working as well as you want them to, you might want to consider using an alternative in the interim while you figure out what to do. Using a USB or Bluetooth keyboard or mouse is not only practical while you troubleshoot your internal hardware, but also great to use in general for ergonomic reasons. Take a look at some of these stylish keyboard and mouse options.
Sometimes, the advantages of using a lightweight laptop such as the MacBook Air comes at the cost of having a monitor which isn’t always as big as we could want. If you ever feel the need to pair your MacBook with a bigger monitor compatible with Thunderbolt, then more often than not a simple Thunderbolt adaptor will do. However, if you don’t have access to a spare monitor, you might want to consider getting a readily-compatible Apple monitor instead.
Finally, those looking to upgrade their Mac system storage might want to use an external hard drive in the meantime. Take a look at the following recommendations, which are all Mac-compatible.
I have not personally tested these accessories. However, I feel confident about their performance judging by the numerous, well-detailed reviews available for these particular models. As always, YMMV.
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