There are lots of reasons why you might need find out what kind of Mac or MacBook 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. With Big Sur arriving on Macs later in 2020 you may be wondering if your Mac is able to run it - we have a list of which Macs are compatible with Big Sur here - but if you don't know which Mac you have then you will be none the wiser.

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.

The different types of Macs

Apple currently makes six types of Mac (although we'd argue that the iMac and iMac Pro are one category of Mac).

Within each of those categories there can be big differences in terms of screen size and processor power.

Types of Mac

There are two types of Mac laptop:

  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro

There are two types of MacBook Pro: the 13in and 16in. The 16in model replaced the 15in model in 2019.

The 16in model is a huge step up from the 13in model and there is almost as great a difference between the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro and the mid-range models.

Prior to July 2019 there was also a MacBook, but Apple has discontinued that Mac model.

And there are four types of Mac desktop:

  • Mac mini
  • iMac
  • iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro

As we hinted above, we would class the iMac Pro and iMac in the same category, but Apple prefers to separate them, perhaps to convince creative pros that the iMac Pro is better suited to them than the 27in iMac.

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.

How to tell what Mac you have: Easy method

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, of you can't access the menu because the Mac won't turn on, you should be able to determine which Mac model it is if you follow the steps below.

How to find 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 how old your Mac is

Finding out how old your 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.

How to find out the age of a 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 iMac right now (the 2.3GHz entry-level model), but that model hasn't been updated since 2017.

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.

How to tell which MacBook you have

Screen

One way to tell which model you have is to measure the screen. Apple tends to name its laptops according to screen size measured diagonally in inches.

The MacBook Pro screen will either be 13in, 15in or 16in. The 16in model was introduced in 2019. The 15in model is actually 15.2in.

Another simple way to tell is to open the lid of your Mac laptop - you will possibly 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 - older MacBook Air's from before 2018, 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 now discontinued MacBook weighed just 0.92kg.

The MacBook Air is currently Apple's smallest and lightest Mac at 1.29kg. Only the long-dead 11in MacBook Air weighed a fraction less at 1.25kg.

The current MacBook Pro is only a little thicker than MacBook Air - but previous generations have been considerably bigger and heavier.

MacBooks

Colour

The pre-2018 MacBook Air was only available in silver, while the newer design of the MacBook Air (which is slimmer) comes in Gold, Space Grey and Silver.

The MacBook Pro has always had a metal case since it's introduction in 2006 (when it replaced the PowerBook G4 series). Initially the MacBook Pro was a silver aluminium finish, but since 2016 it has come in Space Grey or Silver.

The MacBook came in three colours: Gold, Space Grey and Silver (there was once a Rose Gold version too). If you go even further back in time there were white and black MacBook models, the switch from plastic to aluminium came in 2006, around the time Apple moved to Intel processors.

Ports

From its introduction in 2015 until it was discontinued in 2019 the MacBook only had one port - a USB-C port which you use to charge as well as for plugging in peripherals.

Since 2018 the MacBook Air has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (the port is the same). Pre-2018 MacBook Air models had a MagSafe port, two USB 3 ports, Headphone jack, SDXC card slot, and Thunderbolt 2.

The MacBook Pro has two or four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (depending on whether it is 13in or 16in (or 15in) model, and a headphone jack. Since 2016 some 13in and all 15in MacBook Pro models have featured a Touch Bar strip above the keyboard.

How to tell which Mac desktop you have

iMac 2019

Screen

This is a pretty simple one. If your Mac desktop has a screen it is an iMac (or iMac Pro). Neither the Mac mini or the Mac Pro ship with a screen.

The iMac currently comes in two different sizes - as per the screen size, measured diagonally: 21.5in and 27in. As of 2017 there has also been an iMac Pro in addition, which also has a 27in screen. If your iMac was manufactured before 2009 it may have a smaller 20in or 24in screen, and if you go even further back in time there were 15in and 17in iMacs.

There are rumours right now that the screen size of the iMac will soon change

Since 2014/2015 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. The entry-level 21.5-inch iMac still has a standard display, though.

Design

The iMac design has changed a lot over the years, evoiving from the old CRT display (if that's what you are looking at you practically have an antique!) to the modern thin aluminium display. The current design hasn't really changed a lot in the last decade though. The biggest recent change was in 2015 when the screen on iMac models was slimmed down to 5mm thick, so if it's thicker than that your iMac is older.

Evolution of iMac

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).

Mac mini

If you are looking at the 2013 generation of Mac Pro it's about 25cm high. Older Mac Pro models were about twice as tall. The 2019 Mac Pro that Apple is 52.9cm high, it is also recognisable thanks to the series of large holes on the front, much larger holes than the pre-2013 Mac Pro.

New Mac Pro

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. On the other hand, if your iMac is Space Grey then it's an iMac Pro.

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. In 2018 the Mac mini went pro with a Space Grey case.

If you have a Mac Pro that's black and looks a little like a trash can, then you have the 2013 Mac Pro. If it's an aluminium box with a cheese-grater front then it's one of the models with an Intel-processor inside that Apple launched between 2006 and 2012. Or, if those holes on the front are a bit larger and look a bit like alien faces, then you've got the newest Mac Pro. If it's got a plastic case then you have a pre-Intel Mac Pro.

Mac mini

Ports

Current editions of the iMac have a good collection of ports, including SDXC card slot, USB 3 (which support USB-A), Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, and Gigabit Ethernet. Models from before 2017 will have the older Thunderbolt standard instead of Thunderbolt 3. Pre-2018 the Mac mini has two Thunderbolt 2 ports, four USB 3 ports, HDMI, SDXC, and ethernet.

Since 2018 the Mac mini has had four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports in addition to HDMI, USB 3, and Ethernet. Much older Mac mini models may have a optical drive slot on the front. If your's does it must date from before 2011.

The Mac Pro has the biggest collection of ports of any Mac, and the 2019 Mac Pro the most of all. There are two USB 3 ports (which support USB-A), and two Thunderbolt 3 ports (Which support USB-C) and there are two 10Gb Ethernet ports. But there are also lots of expansion options for this Mac.

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 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 Pro 2019: You will find the serial number printed on the underside of the Mac, near the regulatory markings - 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 to check the original packaging or the original receipt/invoice - that's to say, if you still have them!