How to find help for your Mac -- Peter Phun

13.3 " Apple MacBook Intel Core 2 Duo

A recent Mugsie member brought over her G4 Powermac which wouldn't start up. While over the phone I asked which model it was and I realized she couldn't tell me, not because she didn't read the documentation that came with the machine, but because within the G4 Powermac line, there are so many models with just so slight variations.

No you don't have to become a Mac enthusiast and know all these subtleties but in order to get help, you do need to know which G4, G3, powerbook, iBook you have.

You're like most new users.You probably don't realize that most Macs have some sort of identifying nickname.

So now as you're reading this on your working Mac, head over to the Apple icon in the finder and access the Apple System profiler by selecting "About This Mac"

You should see at a glance how much ram you have on your machine, the version of the operating system and the speed of your machine.

My machine has 2GB of memory. It's a dual processor 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4 and the operating system is OS 10.3.9

Now you need to know more about the computer by clicking "More Info..." This will open yet another dialog box which will telll you all sorts of "stuff" about your Mac.

You can see when I click on the black triangle to expand the section called "Hardware", I get other sections like "Memory", PCI/AGP Cards, ATA, SCSI, USB, Firewire, Airport Card and Modems.

It is here you can find out most about your machine without opening it up.

If you want to know about in my case Memory.. You can see I have 4 sticks of 512MB DDR SDRAM

When you click on ATA, you will find the various internal drive attachments you have on your machine. (For what ATA stands for and other IT terms, go to and do a search there.) This is what my machine shows.

I have 4 internal hard drives and two optical drives. To be honest I'm not sure why they choose to call it optical drives.

My guess is that has to do with the laser mechanism the computer uses to "write" to discs like DVDs and CDs.

It is probably a good idea to make a printout of this so that when and if your Mac is down and your have tech support folks, be it Applecare or Uncle John, ask about these things, you can at least tell them about your machine.

It's the very first step to finding help. Armed with this info, you can often post your computer's ails/problems on the numerous online forums like Apple's support/MacFixit and some kind soul will surely be able to help you troubleshoot your machine.

If you want to know about versions of your Applications, expand the section called "Software" and you will find it there as well.

In case you don't own a G4 Powermac and want to figure out your Macs nickname as it were, try or Those two are wonderful resources for educating yourself about your beloved Mac.

NEXT: How to find online help either through support forums or other resources

Peter Phun is a freelance photographer. View his work

Back to Learn Mac Page