An Explanation Of Apple Mac Hardware Usage

Computer Specifications - Hard Drive Size - Memory Size - CPU Speed

Knowing your computer specifications is becoming more important these days simply because you are asked for/about them more often. If you ring up a Technical (Computer Engineer) Department for broadband help for example you might be asked "What version of the Apple Mac operating system are you running?" and when you buy a commercial piece of software, from the internet or from a shop, its Minimum Requirements (Specifications) should be displayed so that you know if your computer meets those minimum requirements. In this section I will show you different ways of viewing common computer specifications so that you can easily find the common specification you want without being overwhelmed by too much information.

To start off with, people will want to know What version of OS X are you running?, such as Leopard, Mavericks or Sierra. If you then answer Leopard the next question will be What edition of Leopard are you running? Leopard or Snow Leopard. The reason for asking specific questions is because some editions of OS X are supplied with more software, and/or are more powerful, than other editions. The Powerbook G4 for example, which was discontinued in 2006, uses the older PowerPC chipset whereas the current Macbooks use the newer Intel chipset. This means newer software might not work on the Powerbook G4.


The current BBC IPlayer, Adobe Flash Player and Google Chrome web browser for example are testament to the just said. They do not work on the Powerbook G4. On top of this the Firefox web browser will be unsecure on a Powerbook G4 simply because it can only use version 3 and not the current version 11. And similar security problems will arise because the Powerbook G4 cannot use up-to-date anti-virus softwares. Therefore, if a technical department knows what edition of OS X you have, when calling them about damaged files for example, they can guide you better with system restore/file restoration advice.

To find out what edition of OS X you are running click on the APPLE Menu, to reveal its menu-items, and then select the ABOUT THIS MAC menu-item. Because this will only bring up a message requester that displays the bare minimum of information about your apple mac (Fig 1.1), you will need to click on its MORE INFO button to see more information about your apple mac.

Fig 1.0  Click on the ABOUT THIS MAC menu-item to continue

Fig 1.1  Click on the MORE INFO button to continue

As said: The above message requester only displays the bare minimum of information about your apple mac, which isn't a bad thing if you only need to know how much memory it has and what its cpu (central processing unit) speed is, but knowing more exact details is a bonus. Hence why I say click on the MORE INFO button.


The MORE INFO option tells me that my apple mac is a Macbook Pro with a 13 Inch screen and that its Processor (CPU) Type is an Intel and more importantly that together with its CPU Speed of 2.5 Ghz it is using the newer Intel i5 chipset. It's not using the older PowerPC chipset. The chipset is a big factor to consider when buying an Apple Mac, especially one with the older PowerPC chipset inside it, because you will find certain hardware and software no longer work with it.

The CPU Speed, which is an indicator of how fast an apple mac can execute (run) instructions and therefore operate (run) hardware and software, ultimately determines whether or not the computer as a whole can cope with modern-day technologies. In this case mine can, as it is one of the latest apple macs on the market. Although the cpu (processor) type and speed are not normally asked for by a technical department, especially if they know what version of OS X you are running, they should be listed with commercial software as part of its Minimum Requirements.

Fig 1.2  MORE INFO is displaying more information about this Macbook Pro's CPU

With the message requester in Fig 1.1 above and the above specifications (more info) window stating that 4 GB (4 GigaBytes) of memory is installed inside this computer, they both do not state how many memory slots the computer has or how much memory is installed inside each memory slot. For that information I need to click on the MEMORY Tab (Fig 1.3 below).


In this example the computer has two Memory Slots whereby each memory slot has a 2 GB (2 GigaByte) Memory Stick installed (inserted), making up the 4 GB (4 GigaBytes) of total memory, and that each 2 GB memory stick is of Type: DDR3. It is the Memory Type (DDR3) and the Memory Speed (1600 Mhz) you need to note when buying a memory stick for yourself or when talking to a technician.

Fig 1.3  This computer has two memory slots, each with 2 GB (2 GigaByte) memory sticks installed (inserted).

If you click on the MEMORY UPGRADE INSTRUCTIONS link at the bottom of the window (Fig 1.3 above) it will take you to the Apple Support web page where you can gather more information about your apple mac's memory, such as how much more memory you can put inside your apple mac. In this example I can upgrade the total memory to 8 GB (4 GB in each memory slot).

Fig 1.4  The Apple Support web page has more info about your apple mac's memory specifications and possibilities

You can also find more information about your apple mac's specifications, including its memory specifications, by clicking on the SYSTEM REPORT button located on the main About This Mac window (Fig 1.2 above).

Fig 1.5  Click on the hardware or software heading you want more information about

The reason why you might be asked How much Memory do you have installed? is when you are telling a technical department that your computer is slow and always crashes/freezing for example. These symptoms can be because your computer does not have enough memory inside it. If you buy a commercial piece of software, from the internet or from a shop, it should state its Minimum Memory Requirements.


To view the size of the computer's Hard Drive you can do one of two things - 1) Click on its hard drive icon, located on the desktop, and then select GET INFO from the FILE menu or 2) Click on its hard drive icon, located on the desktop, whilst pressing down on the CTRL keyboard key. This is the equivalent to right-clicking on the icon and will display the following context (Options) menu whereby you then left click on its GET INFO menu-item.

Fig 1.6  Click on the hard drive's desktop icon with the CTRL keyboard key pressed to display its Options menu

Clicking on the GET INFO menu-item will reveal information about your apple mac's hard drive including its total size (capacity) and free space available, which are the only two pieces of information a technician would need anyway.

Fig 1.7  Information about this hard drive

In this example my hard drive has a total size (capacity/space) of 499.25 GigaBytes with 468.26 GigaBytes of that capacity/space free (unused). In truth all computers use some of the hard drive space for themselves (i.e. for indexing purposes), so in reality my hard drive is classed as a 500 GigaBytes hard drive when sold in the shop, even though the system (the computer) has used up .75 GB (almost 1 GB) for itself.

With some hard drives being split up into two partitions, in order to store the computer's/manufacturer's Recovery Drive or another operating system such as Windows, a technical department might ask "Do you have a Recovery Drive on your hard drive? or a CD Recovery Disk?. If you have a DVD Recovery Disk you might not have a separate partition - Your hard drive should be in one piece only. With modern apple mac's having MacOS (Sierra) and Windows 10 installed on them you might have a partitioned (split in two or three pieces) hard drive.


When you call a technical department or buy some commercial software it is always best to know your computer specifications beforehand. That way you will not waste valuable time and money saying Hold on! I will just find out for you, especially if it's a helpline you are calling at 50p a minute for example. So be prepared. Plug in your usb devices (i.e. webcam, digital camera and flash drives), one-by-one if necessary, in order to identify them later and to distinguish them from other, mounted, devices.

Fig 1.8  So many devices plugged in - Are they easily recognizable though?

In Fig 1.8 above you may recognise the Macintosh HD icon as being my main hard drive but can you identify the other storage devices? The orange icon belongs to my 250GB USB Hard Drive, the blue icon belongs to my Digital Camera's Memory Card and the white icon belongs to my 4 GB USB Flash Memory Drive. A technician might need to know about these devices just in case any one of them are causing your computer problems.


Although the ABOUT THIS MAC feature tells you what edition (version number) of the apple mac operating system you are using (i.e. 10.8.1), that information does not display the sub-name given to the operating system. In this example the words Mountain Lion are not displayed - Years ago the name of the operating system was displayed (i.e. Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard) but not on the Mountain Lion!'s that Posh!

To clarify: When you say OS X you are just stating to a technician that you are using an Apple Mac computer. If you said Windows instead OS X you would be stating that you are using a Microsoft computer. This is because OS X is just the main name given to the apple mac operating system, just as Windows is a main name given to the microsoft operating system. And just as microsoft have given each of their new operating systems a different sub-name over the years (such XP, Vista, 7 and 10) so have apple. They have called their operating system sub-names Leopard and Lion in the past.

So how do you get to know what edition of the apple mac operating system you are using based only on its version number? Answer: You either look at your original packaging or you look it up online. This Apple MAC web page gives a quick look at the history of the version numbers so you can easily identify its operating system sub-name. If you then use this Apple MAC web page, you can then gather when your apple mac was made and what version of the operating system was originally installed on it.

Fig 1.9  This chart shows that 10.8.1 is the Mountain Lion version of the apple mac operating system

These two charts (above and below) state that my apple mac has the Mountain Lion (10.8.1) version of the operating system installed, and that it was originally installed with the Lion (10.7.4) version of the operating system.

Fig 1.10  The Apple Support web pages can also produce more info about the operating system

Although the ABOUT THIS MAC menu-item (Fig 1.0 above) tells you the version number you might want to use the MORE INFO button (Fig 1.1 above) to gain a bit more information about your apple mac's operating system and overall specifications. Remember: Even if a technical department gives you free advice they might still need some computer specifications from you.


As of OS X (El Capitan - Version 10:11 - 2015) Apple has since rebranded their operating system as MacOS (2016); with Sierra (Version 10:12) being their first operating system to be branded as MacOS. At this time there is only Sierra and High Sierra (Version 10:13) branded as MacOS.