When buying a new Mac, Apple gives you just enough information about the system’s hardware to make a good comparative choice between the different models, but the company keeps the exact hardware details hidden in order to avoid customer confusion. For example, when shopping for a new MacBook Air, Apple tells you that the base CPU is a “1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5,” but doesn’t reveal the specific model.
Indeed, even after you’ve purchased a Mac, the information about the exact CPU model is hidden from the “About this Mac” and System Information windows. This is fine for most users, but power users or those looking to compare a Mac’s performance to an equivalent PC may want to know exactly which CPU is powering their computer.
Thankfully, third party resources, such as the excellent EveryMac.com, have stepped in to provide a wealth of details about every Mac ever released. But to use that information, you’ll first need to know your specific Mac model and then take the time to browse the website.
What if you just quickly want to verify your Mac’s CPU model? Or what if you’re working to repair or troubleshoot someone else’s Mac and don’t have all the info about the system immediately available? Well, you’re probably not surprised to learn that there’s a Terminal command that can show your Mac’s CPU model. Here’s how to use it.
First, launch Terminal from the Macintosh HD/Applications/Utilities folder (or by searching for it with Spotlight). Then, enter the following command and press Return:
sysctl -n machdep.cpu.brand_string
You’ll immediately see a new line of text with the exact make and model of your Mac’s CPU. In our example, our 2013 Mac Pro is powered by a single Intel Xeon E5-1650 V2. A quick search for that processor reveals its complete details listed at Intel’s website, including important information such as TDP and price.
Intel has kept the same Core-series naming scheme for several years, meaning that lots of CPUs share similar frequency characteristics even though they offer far different performance levels. By identifying your Mac’s specific CPU, you’ll be able to more accurately compare your Mac to other Macs and PCs, helping you either make an initial purchase or decide if it’s worth it to upgrade.
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