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Where can I locate the Model Identifier (Model ID) or Machine Model for my Mac? Are Model Identifiers unique? What are the limitations identifying a specific Mac using the Model Identifier?
The Model Identifier for a particular Mac -- often abbreviated as "Model ID" and called "Machine Model" in older versions of the Mac OS -- looks like MacBook5,1.
For identification purposes, the largest advantage of Model Identifiers is that they are available in the "About This Mac" section of Mac OS X. To access this information, simply select "About This Mac" under the Apple Menu on your computer and click the "More Info..." button on Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" or earlier. On OS X 10.7 "Lion" and later, you will need to click "More Info..." and then "System Report..."
You should see a window similar to this one:
Image Credit: EveryMac.com
By itself, the largest disadvantage of the Model Identifier is that it is not precise enough to identify a particular Mac, but it is "close enough" for many purposes (most upgrades, for example), and when combined with the processor type and speed (also available in the "Hardware Overview" window) it commonly -- but not always -- is enough to identify an exact Mac.
For the above MacBook -- from EveryMac.com's own collection -- the Model Identifier and processor speed are sufficient to quickly identify the model. When the Model Identifier and processor are not sufficient to identify an exact Mac you will need a third data point for differentiation, however.
For example, the White MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13-Inch (Late 2006) and MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.0 13-Inch (Mid-2007) both use the MacBook2,1 Model Identifier and have 2.0 GHz "Core 2 Duo" processors. In this case, knowledge of the optical drive would work as would knowledge of the year originally purchased.
Alternately, in this situation, you could type in the Serial Number in EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup to see if an exact match is available.
Other than a lack of precision, the other major disadvantage of the Model Identifier is that it is only listed in software, not on the hardware itself, so there is no way to use it at all if a computer won't boot.
If EveryMac.com does not return a list of applicable Macs for a given Model Identifier (or your Mac is not included), but you are able to track down your Mac using another identifier, please share any missing information. The Ultimate Mac Lookup feature is quite comprehensive, but it will become even more so with your additions. Thank you.