Have you ever tried to hunt down technical information about your Mac? This can be quite the daunting task to someone who isn’t particularly familiar with Macs. But fear not, whether you own a brand new MacPro or a 1997 Apple Quicktake 200, today’s app will tell you everything you need to know about it.
Below we’ll introduce you to an awesomely helpful application called Mactracker. You’ll get to see what it does and learn about why you should download it today and never delete it.
A Magic Application
What is the serial number on your Mac? When was it manufactured? What type of RAM does it take? What graphics card does it have? Did that Blueberry iMac that’s collecting dust in your basement come standard with an Airport card?
Whether you’re a serious techie or you have no idea what all those questions even mean, you should be able to find out the answers. The reason is that these mundane facts become vital information when it comes time to upgrade or repair your Apple products.
In an ideal world, there would be some magical Mac application that knows just about everything there is to know about almost every Apple product ever created. This application would be free to download and easy for even non-nerds to use. Wouldn’t that be something?
As it turns out, this fantasy app is actually a reality, and it’s called Mactracker.
Despite its seemingly mystical existence, Mactracker is a pretty plain looking Mac application. The interface is split up into two primary sections: the navigation on the left and the list of models on the right.
Clicking on “All Models” will show you a list of every Apple product that Mactracker has information on. As you can see in the screenshot above, mine currently has data on 520 models.
At the bottom of the window, there’s a search bar that allows you to quickly filter the results. To see more information about a specific model, simply double click it to open that model’s dedicated window.
As you can see, each window contains a small image of the product in the upper left and a number of different sections for the available technical information.
These tabs make it easy to quickly locate specific types of information for the model in question. Here you can see everything from benchmarking stats to historical data. One particularly great feature that nerds will enjoy in this window is the old startup and death chimes for Macs dating all the way back to 1984. Clicking the buttons shown below will play the audio clips.
The included timeline of Apple product releases is another excellent nostalgia-producing feature.
Finding the Right Information
To illustrate how to use Mactracker, let’s go through a typical example. Let’s say we want to upgrade the RAM on my 2007 White MacBook.
The first thing we want to do is locate the right model in the library. If you actually happen to be on the Mac you want to find information for, Mactracker is smart enough to help out with this search.
Simply click the item on the left that says “This Mac” to see a list of possibilities. As you can see in the image below, Mactracker knows I’m on a Macbook but isn’t quite sure if it’s the 2006 or 2007 model.
Fortunately, I know I’m on the 2007 model so I can just double click that model to open the info window.
Alternatively, if you’re not sitting at the Mac you want to look up, you can just use the categories to find the proper model. The categories are broken up into Desktops (iMacs, Mac Pros, etc.), Notebooks (iBooks, PowerBooks, MacBooks, etc.), Servers (XServes), Devices (Mice, Keyboards, iPhones, iPods, Apple TVs, etc.) and Software (operating systems only). Each of these is then expandable into subdivided categories as shown below.
Once you drill down far enough that the list of models becomes manageable, you can then select your specific model.
Now that we’ve found my Mac we need to identify the tab that contains the info we’re looking for. Since we’re upgrading the RAM we’ll go to the Memory/Graphics section.
As you can see, I have two slots that take 200-pin PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2 SO-DIMM RAM. Now I can use this information to search for RAM on the web.
You can option-click on text in Mactracker to copy it to the clipboard. This makes running a Google search for the info above super fast.
Another neat feature in Mactracker is the ability to create a list of all the Mac’s that you routinely work with. This is perfect for small businesses or IT departments that need to keep track of a list of products.
To add a product to your list, click on “My Models” on the left then hit the plus button on the bottom. This should bring up a window like the one below.
Here you can fill in specific information about a Mac. To auto-fill this content from the current machine, hit the button on the bottom that says “This Mac.”
If you enter your Mac’s warranty information, Mactracker will keep your models divided into three categories: those in warranty, those leaving, and those out of warranty. This is an awesome feature for quickly checking to see if a failing product is covered.
Mactracker allows you to extend the categories section by creating your own “Smart Categories.” These function just like most Smart Folders inside of OS X: you simply create a few criteria and it does the rest.
Mactracker allows you to choose from a large list of criteria that includes all kinds of hardware and software options. You simply drag these criteria from the list to the area below and then the enter the specific text of the attribute you want.
For instance, in the example above I created a category that searches for Macs containing Firewire 800 ports whose default OS was 10.6. This is helpful if you need to quickly see which of your machines has an Airport card, Bluetooth support, etc.
One final feature of Mactracker that I only just found while writing this review is the ability to quickly compare two or more models. To do this, select as many models as you want from the list and hit Command-K.
This will bring up the window below showing a side-by-side list of the specs for each model. If you want something simpler, in the preferences menu you can change this list to only show the differences between the models.
Though Mactracker might not sound like much to a casual user, it’s a nerd’s dream come true. As the default tech support guy for my friends and family, I use this application all the time to quickly check out the specs on everything from flavored iMacs to new Mac Pros.
One thing that I really appreciate about Mactracker is how easy it is to use. Everything is completely intuitive and lightning fast. There are plenty of features to play with when you have the time but when you need a quick answer it’s nice to have all the info you need accessible in a matter of seconds.
One thing I would like to see integrated into the app is the ability to type in a serial number and have the app instantly recognize information about the product. This functionality is found on Apple’s support site and would be a great addition to Mactracker. Other than that, the app is excellent just how it is and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. What features are your favorite? What would you like to see added?
Mactracker is an amazing little application that tracks product specs, historical information and more about almost every Apple product ever produced. With only a few clicks you can find out everything you need to know to swap out your hard drive, upgrade your RAM or settle that argument about when the first Quadra was released.9