System Information Utility Can Uncover MacBook Hardware Secrets - dummies

System Information Utility Can Uncover MacBook Hardware Secrets

By Mark L. Chambers

Need hard information about your MacBook hardware? You can use the System Information utility. You might need to determine precisely what hardware is installed in your MacBook for the following reasons:

  • If you’re working with a technical support person to solve a problem: This person will usually request information about your system, such as what processor you’re running and how much memory you have.

  • If you’re evaluating an application before you buy it: You’ll want to check its minimum system requirements against the hardware on your laptop.

  • If you’re considering an upgrade to your MacBook: You’ll likely need to determine how much memory you have, what type it is, and which memory slots are filled. (The same goes for your hard drive.)

Apple provides Mac OS X with an all-in-one hardware and software display tool, aptly named System Information, which you can find in the Utilities folder within your Applications folder. You can also reach System Information through the Apple menu. Just click About This Mac, click the More Info button, and then click System Report. (Naturally, System Information is also available from the Utilities folder within Launchpad.)

As with the folders in a Finder window in List View mode, you can expand or collapse each major heading that appears in an Information screen. Just click the triangle that appears to the left of each Contents heading to expand or collapse that heading.

The System Information major headings include

  • Hardware: This heading tells you volumes about your hard drives as well as specifics concerning your memory; optical drives; modem; AirPort and Bluetooth hardware; printers; graphics and audio hardware; AC power settings; and any FireWire, Thunderbolt, CardBus, and USB devices connected to your system.

    The following figure illustrates the information from the USB screen, with many of the devices expanded so that you can see them. (The text you see at the bottom half of the window is the detailed information on the item that’s selected.)


  • Network: This heading shows a listing of your network configuration, active network connections, and other assorted network paraphernalia. You’ll probably need this screen only when asked by a technical support person for the network protocols that you’re using, but it’s handy nonetheless. (You’ll find details on your network connection here that you can’t find anywhere else in Lion.)

  • Software: Okay, this heading shows something useful to the average human being! This screen lists all the applications, fonts, and preferences recognized on your start-up volume, along with their version numbers.

    (This includes the fonts and preferences that are saved in your Home folder’s Library folder, which are hidden from a Spotlight search.) If you’re wondering whether you need to update an application with a patch file (to fix bugs in the software) or update a file from the developer, you can look here to check the current version number for the application.

    You also get a rather boring list of the extensions (or drivers) used by Mac OS X applications. Logs are usually valuable only to tech support personnel; they document recent lockups, application crashes, and even system crashes.