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Where can I locate the Serial Number on my Mac? What is a Serial Number "Snippet"? Are Serial Number "Snippets" unique? What are the limitations identifying a specific Mac using the Serial Number?
Mac Serial Numbers can be located under the "About This Mac" section of Mac OS X and on the hardware itself as well as on some packaging and receipts, making the identifier quite versatile for identification and differentiation.
EveryMac.com refers to the last three characters of an eleven character Serial Number -- all G3 and later Macs released prior to 2010, as well as many models released during 2010 -- and the last four characters of a twelve character Serial Number -- some models released starting in 2010 -- as a Serial Number "Snippet." This last portion of the Serial Number is intended to identify an exact Mac model (but not identify the individual Mac or its owner).
Please note that to find systems by Serial Number "Snippet" using EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup, please do not enter the entire Serial Number, only enter the last three or four characters, again, depending on whether the system has an eleven character or a twelve character Serial Number, respectively.
The easiest way to locate the Serial Number for a particular Mac is to select "About This Mac" under the Apple Menu on your computer and click the "More Info..." button.
You should see a window similar to this one:
Image Credit: EveryMac.com
In this example, from EveryMac.com's own collection, the underlined Serial Number "Snippet" (1AX) is enough to identify a single Mac and it is believed to be unique to this one particular model -- the MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13-Inch (Unibody).
Please note, however, that not all Macs of a particular model have the same Serial Number "Snippet." Another reader also could have a MacBook "Core 2 Duo" 2.4 13-Inch (Unibody), but instead of having the last three characters of the Serial Number as 1AX, it could be 1B5, along with many other possibilities. A single Mac model may have dozens of different Serial Number "Snippets."
Additionally, and unfortunately, Serial Number "Snippets" are not always unique to one Mac either, and this is a limitation of the identifier. Based on hands-on inspection and thousands of reader-submitted Serial Number "Snippets" there appear to be some different models in the PowerBook G4, Power Mac G4, Power Mac G5, Mac Pro, iMac and eMac lines that share "Snippets." There very well may be models in other lines that share Serial Number "Snippets" as well.
The below images -- courtesy of KP's Surplus (a wholesaler that does an excellent job documenting exactly which Macs it has available for sale) -- provides an example of three different Power Mac G4 models in the same "subfamily" (Quicksilver 2002) all with the same Serial Number "Snippet" (M1X).
Photo Credit: KP's Surplus
In this instance, there is enough secondary information -- processor speed -- that precise identification still is not a problem.
Multiple models using the same Serial Number "Snippet" appears to be fairly uncommon -- and when they are shared they seem to almost always be from within the same immediate subfamily -- but one still should verify that an exact match for a Serial Number "Snippet" is correct and comprehensive using secondary identifiers whenever possible. Should you encounter a potential error or an omission in EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup, please report it. Thank you.
Another weakness of using Serial Number "Snippets" for identification is that some repairs can alter or remove the serial number in software or hardware and/or provide conflicting Serial Number information. Occasionally, there are different Serial Numbers listed on the hardware and in software due to manufacturing error as well. In these situations, one will need to use alternate information to identify a particular Mac.
If a Mac will not boot, and/or locating a Serial Number is easier externally (perhaps the power cable is missing, damaged or in another location, for instance), this can help pinpoint where Serial Numbers are located on different Macs:
|Mac Series||Serial Number Location|
|Power Mac G3||Back|
|Power Mac G4||Back|
|Power Mac G5||Inside Access Panel|
|iMac||Bottom or Under "Foot"|
|eMac||Inside Optical Drive "Flap"|
|PowerBook G4||Inside Battery Bay|
|iBook||Under Keyboard and Inside Battery Bay|
|MacBook||Inside Battery Bay or Bottom*|
|MacBook Pro||Inside Battery Bay or Bottom*|
* MacBook and MacBook Pro models with batteries that are not designed to be removed by the end user and MacBook Air models have Serial Numbers etched on the bottom. MacBook and MacBook Pro models with removable batteries have the Serial Number inside the battery bay (either on the bottom of the bay or on the side walls).
If EveryMac.com does not identify your Mac -- or it identifies a different Mac or Macs -- when you type in the last three or four characters of its Serial Number (again, depending on whether it uses an eleven character or twelve character Serial Number), but you are able to track down your Mac using another identifier, please share any missing information. The Ultimate Mac Lookup feature already is quite comprehensive, but it will become more and more so with your additions. Thank you.