There are lots of reasons why you might need to identify which Mac you have. Perhaps you are planning to sell a used Mac and you want find out what it’s worth. If you are selling your Mac, you’ll also want to be able to accurately let the buyer know what they're getting. 

Maybe you are the one buying a second-hand Mac and you want to check that you aren’t about to purchase an antique model that won’t have the power to deal with your day to day tasks.

Alternatively, you may be wondering if you should update the operating system and want to be sure that the latest version of macOS won’t break your computer.

In this article we will help you find out the model number and age of a Mac, plus how to tell what processor your Mac has, and how to check how much RAM is inside your Mac.

How to tell which type of Mac you have

Apple makes six types of Mac, although within each of those categories there can be big differences in terms of screen size and processor power.

There are three types of Mac laptop:

  • MacBook
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro

And there are three types of Mac desktop:

  • Mac mini
  • iMac
  • Mac Pro

There are a number of key differences between these Mac models. To find out more about the different Macs Apple makes read our Mac Buying Guide here.

There’s an easy way to identify exactly which Mac or MacBook you have:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your Mac.
  2. This will bring up a drop-down menu. Pick the top option: About This Mac.
  3. The resulting window detail what type of Mac it is, e.g. iMac (27-inch, Late 2013)

However, if you don’t have access to the Mac in question and you can’t access the Apple menu, you should be able to determine which Mac model it is if you follow this guide:

Here’s how to find what type of MacBook you have:

Screen: It you up the Mac laptop you will see the name of the model printed on the black bar below the screen. That’s as long as you don’t have a MacBook Pro from between 2012 and 2016 - Apple removed the name from the bezel for a number of years, but the name returned in later models. Another way to distinguish is the screen quality - the MacBook Air, and some older models of the MacBook Pro do not have Retina displays. Retina displays have more pixels for a superior image.

Size/weight: The MacBook is currently Apple’s smallest and lightest Mac (although in the past the 11in MacBook Air was even lighter - but Apple doesn’t sell that any more). The current MacBook Pro is only a little thicker than the MacBook and MacBook Air - but previous generations have been considerably bigger and heavier.

Colour: The current line of MacBook comes in four colours: Rose Gold, Gold, Space Grey and Silver, while the MacBook Air is only available in silver. The MacBook Pro currently comes in Space Grey or Silver.

Ports: The MacBook only has one port - a USB-C port which you use to charge as well as for plugging in peripherals. The MacBook Air has a MagSafe port, two USB 3 ports, Headphone jack, SDXC card slot, and Thunderbolt 2. The MacBook Pro has two or four Thunderbolt 3 ports (depending on whether it is 13- or 15-inch), and a headphone jack. Some newer MacBook Pro models feature a Touch Bar strip above the keyboard.

Here’s how to find what type of desktop Mac you have:

Screen: The iMac is the only desktop Mac that comes with a built in screen. There are two screen sizes currently - 21.5in or 27in, but in the past the iMac has come in all shapes and sizes. In recent years most of the iMacs sold have a Retina display, these are very good quality screens that offer up to 5120x2880 resolution with support for 1 billion colours. Some 21.5-inch iMacs still have standard displays, though.

Size/weight: As we said above, the iMac currently comes in two different sizes: 21.5in and 27in. (That measurement is the diagonal measurement of the screen in inches.) If your iMac was manufactured before 2009 it may have a smaller 20- or 24-inch screen, and if you go even further back in time there were 15- and 17-inch iMacs. Before that there as the old CRT display (and if that’s what you are looking at you practically have an antique!) As the iMac design has evolved the iMac has got thinner. Since 2015 the screen on iMac models has been about 5mm thick, so if it’s thicker than that your iMac is older. The Mac mini is Apple’s most compact Mac, with current models measuring 20cm by 20cm, and about 3.5cm high (older models were a little larger). If you are looking at the current generation of Mac Pro it’s about 25cm high. Older Mac Pro models were about twice as tall.

Colour: The iMac is currently encased in aluminium and has been since 2007. If your iMac is white (or any other shade of plastic), it’s much older. When Apple introduced the Mac mini in 2005 it was white and silver, the design didn’t change significantly until 2010 when it got an all aluminium case, and again in 2011 when it lost the optical drive. The Mac Pro has a design overhaul back in 2013, and it’s due another one soon. If you have a Mac Pro that’s black and looks a little like a trash can, then you have the current generation of Mac Pro (from 2013). If it’s an aluminium box with a cheese-grater front then it’s one of the models with Intel inside, that Apple launched between 2006 and 2012. If it’s got a plastic case then you have a pre-Intel Mac Pro.

Ports: Current editions of the iMac have a good collection of ports, including SDXC card slot, USB 3, Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, and Gigabit Ethernet. Models from before 2017 will have the older Thunderbolt standard instead of Thunderbolt 3. The current Mac mini has two Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3 ports, HDMI, SDXC, and ethernet. The only real difference in terms of ‘ports’ is that much older Mac mini models may have a optical drive slot on the front. If your’s does it must date from before 2011.

How to find out your Mac model number

If you know the model number (or model identifier) and the processor speed, you generally have all the information you need to identify your Mac model.

Here’s how to find the model number of your Mac, you can find this by following these instructions:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your Mac.
  2. This will bring up a drop-down menu. Pick the top option: About This Mac.
  3. Click on System Report (or on Macs running older operating systems, click on More Information).
  4. In the Hardware Overview you will see the Model Identifier.

However, note that the model identifier can be shared by more than one Mac, so you will need more information to confidently identify the Mac in question.

How to find out how old a Mac is

Finding out the age of a Mac is an important step towards uncovering the details of the components Apple used inside it.

Once you know when the Mac in question was launched (which isn’t necessarily when it was purchased) you can find out which generation of processor is inside as well as other information that may help you determine whether it’s better of worse than another Mac.

Here’s how you can find out the year of you Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your Mac.
  2. This will bring up a drop-down menu. Pick the top option: About This Mac.
  3. The resulting window should show you the information you need, e.g. iMac (27-inch, Late 2013).

That date is when that particular generation of Mac launched. It may be that the Mac was manufactured and purchased some time after that date, so it may not be that old physically. For example, you can buy a new MacBook Air right now, but that model is essentially the same as the one that launched in 2015.

The important thing is that once you know the launch date, you can find out information about the processor and other components inside it, as we explain here: How to check the specs of your Mac: find out processor and RAM information.

How to find a Mac’s serial number

There are a few reasons why you may need to find your Mac’s serial number. It could be to get help with a technical issue, to find out whether the Mac has been recalled due to a known fault, or in the unfortunate circumstances of having your Mac stolen.

The location of your serial number is determined by the Mac model - and we have a complete guide to finding your Macs’s serial number here

You’ll also find your serial number if you click on the Apple Menu > About This Mac as above.

I can't switch on my Mac! How can I identify which model it is?

Do not fret, we thought about you too!

Every Mac, be it laptop or desktop computer, has a factory sticker indicating its model number and serial number.

Here's a list of Macs with the locations of their identifier stickers:

  • iMac: Found on the base of the computer. Be sure to switch off your iMac, disconnect the wires and then flip it over, preferably on a soft surface, to reveal the numbers. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.
  • MacBook Air: Found on the back surface of the laptop. The location of the numbers will differ between models post-2012, 2010-2011 and Original-2009; however on all MacBook Airs, the numbers will be at the back surface of the laptop. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.
  • MacBook Pro: Found on the back surface of the laptop. The location of the numbers will differ between models post-2012 and 2009-2011. For MacBook Pros that are dated pre-2008, including the original MacBook Pro, the location of the numbers will be found within the laptop. For these older models you will need to turn off your computer and remove the battery bay to reveal the numbers. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.
  • Mac Pro pre-2013 (Tower computer): Found on the computer’s back panel, near the video card’s output. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.
  • Mac Pro post-2013 (Cylinder computer): Found on the bottom surface of the computer. Be sure to switch off the Mac Pro before turning it over. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.
  • Mac Mini (Mid 2010 and later): Found on the bottom surface of the computer. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.
  • Mac Mini (Original-Late 2009): Found on the bottom housing of the computer. If you would like to see a visual representation - visit Apple’s website.

Another way to find the model and serial number of your Mac is to also check the original packaging or the original receipt/invoice - that's to say, if you still have them!