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Apple System Profiler

The Apple System Profiler (path: /Applications/Utilities/System Profiler) is a tool for browsing the hierarchy of components in your computer, connected to your computer, and installed on your computer. A typical use of this utility is to provide detailed configuration information for error reports to hardware and software manufacturers. Other uses include surveying the applications that are installed, along with their version information, and checking the status of USB or FireWire devices plugged in to your machine.

The profiler collects information about your computer when initially launched. Information is divided into four major categories (labeled Contents): Hardware, Software, Network, and Logs, which are listed in a pane on the left side of the window.

In the initial display, Hardware is highlighted, providing an overview of your system hardware, as shown in Figure 3.43.

Figure 3.43Figure 3.43 The System Profiler collects and displays your system's hardware configuration.

Each of the categories can be expanded or collapsed by clicking the disclosure arrow in front of the topic. Disclosure arrows are used extensively throughout the application, so be sure to click around—you'll be surprised at the total amount of available information.


The View menu offers the capability to switch between three levels of reported information (Short, Standard, and Extended). The information in this section assumes that Extended (Command-3) is selected.

Hardware Profile

The Hardware category, displayed in Figure 3.43, contains a summary of the base computer. By expanding Hardware to show each of the subtopics, you can find everything from the serial and sales order number assigned when your machine was first built to the Vendor IDs of devices plugged in to your USB bus.


To access the System Profile information quickly, you can run /usr/sbin/system_profiler from the command line or open About this Mac in the Apple menu and click the More Info button.

For example, to see the internal disks and ATA storage devices, click the ATA (IDE) hardware category. The content area of the screen refreshes with a list of devices at the top and a detail view of the selected device at the bottom. Figure 3.44 shows an example of this screen.

Figure 3.44Figure 3.44 View details of a given piece of hardware.

If you're unfamiliar with the standard Macintosh bus types, this list may provide some insight:

  • USB—Universal Serial Bus. In its initial implementation (version 1), USB is a slow (12Mbps) bus used for connecting external peripherals such as low-speed storage, scanners, printers, cameras, mice, and keyboards. USB 2.0, now included on new Macs, supports much faster speeds and can be much like FireWire.

  • FireWire—An Apple-developed bus technology that supports speeds of 400Mbps and 800Mbps, hot-swappable devices such as high-speed storage, and digital-video cameras. The FireWire bus is also known by its IEEE name 1394 and Sony's iLink.

  • PCI—Peripheral Component Interconnect. The PCI bus was developed by Intel (yes, that Intel) and is the standard for connecting internal video cards, sound cards, and so on.

  • ATA—Integrated Drive Electronics. The IDE standard was developed by Western Digital and is used for internal CD-ROM and disk storage.

  • SCSI—Small Computer System Interface. A fast bus for high-speed storage devices, typically used on server-class computers.

Software Profile

Selecting the Software profile category displays information about your Mac OS X system configuration, including version, kernel, boot volume, and active user. You can use the three categories within Software to display extended information about installed components of the OS.


The Applications selection scans your drive to display all the installed applications (the BSD subsystem is not taken into account). You can view version, creator, and modification dates in the upper pane. Selecting an entry in the list displays details, including location in the bottom pane.


Selecting Frameworks displays a list of libraries installed on your computer, in a view identical to Applications.

There are dozens of frameworks in the base installation of Mac OS X—ranging from AppleShare to Speech Recognition.

What Is a Framework?

A framework is a collection of shared object libraries. Instead of each application reimplementing code, the operating system can provide commonly used functions in the form of a shared library.


Extensions, like frameworks, provide functionality to the operating system. Unlike frameworks, they work directly with the hardware to enable the operating system to access devices such as network cards, sound cards, and other components. Mac users are familiar with extensions. In Mac OS 8 and 9, extensions had similar capabilities but often made the operating system unstable. In Mac OS X, the traditional extension is replaced by a .kext (kernel extension). These plug-ins for the Mach kernel cannot be installed by unprivileged users and are no longer appropriate for creating cool (but crash-causing) additions to the system.

The layout of the Extensions view is identical to that of the Frameworks.


The Network category provides an overview of your installed network configurations, their interface IDs, and IP addresses (if any), as shown in Figure 3.45.

Selecting a configuration displays additional information including MAC address and subnet mask in the lower details pane.

Figure 3.45Figure 3.45 The Network category gives you a quick overview of your network status.


Finally, the Logs category allows you to view the Mac OS X Console and System log. This functionality is replicated in a number of locations, such as the Console utility, so its inclusion here is a bit curious.


The menus provide little additional functionality beyond what can be accessed directly in the System Profiler window.

The File menu operates on reports generated from the Profiler's data. You can use the regular Open command to open existing report files; use Save to save reports in System Profiler, RTF, or plain text; and use the Print function to print the report window.

The View menu offers the option of switching between Short (Command-1), Standard (Command-2), and Extended (Command-3) report types. If you aren't seeing a piece of information that should be displayed, switch to the Extended report.

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