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About a year ago, I sold my old MacBook Pro. Last week I got a call from the buyer who said that it had been stolen and he didn't have the serial number — and did I have it?

I haven't been able to find it anywhere. It's not registered under my Apple ID (not sure it ever was). It was originally purchased from Amazon, and they don't put serial numbers on their receipts. I'm still looking for the original box.

OTOH, I do still have a disk image that I made of the drive immediately before I reformatted it, prior to the sale.

Is the serial number stored anywhere on that disk image?

What I've tried:

  • Searching my current MBP for my current serial number
    I figured that if I could find a file with the current serial number, the old disk image might have that same file with the old number.
  • Searching for old system profiler reports
    Sadly, I couldn't find one.

Anyone have any other ideas?

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possible duplicate of Reinstalling OS - Retrieve Serial number from filesystem –  Robert S Ciaccio Nov 2 '10 at 1:46
2  
Nope—I read that one, and it's about an OS serial number (which Macs don't even have). This is about the serial number of the hardware itself. –  Dori Nov 2 '10 at 5:12
    
For future reference, the hardware serial number is available from the system profiler, About This Mac, on the Hardware Overview page. (I know that doesn't help much without the computer in hand.) If you've ever made an AppleCare support request, you were probably asked for it - perhaps Apple Support have a record of it. –  JRobert Nov 2 '10 at 11:27
    
@JRobert - Making an AppleCare support request puts the Mac's serial number under your Apple ID. As the question states, the stolen laptop was "not registered under my Apple ID"—so no, I knew that that wasn't an available option. –  Dori Nov 4 '10 at 0:09
    
I understood this option wasn't available to you; that's why I didn't offer this as an answer. But some future reader of this question might have different circumstances. –  JRobert Nov 4 '10 at 21:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Apparently the only ways to find out a Mac's serial number (if you don't have the Mac physically present) are:

When you had the Mac, you:

Without the Mac:

  • Have a sales receipt from a retailer that puts the serial number on their receipts
  • Purchased it from a retailer that keeps track of serial numbers
  • Find the box the Mac came in

Thankfully, after I posted this question, the buyer was able to find the original box, which gave him the serial number.

But the actual answer to the question is: No, Macs do not normally store their serial number in a disk file.

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The computer’s “Serial Number” is not stored in the software, but the hardware as far as I can remember (because there’s a method in the Cocoa SDK to read it).

You can also ask the OS to tell you the Serial Number by going to /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app and executing:

ioreg -l | grep IOPlatformSerialNumber

This value, is stored in some form of nonvolatile memory on the motherboard, because you can wipe your hard drive completely clean, and the results will always be the same, until you have to change your board.

All that said, the vendor should have the serial number of the machine it sold, and Apple will know that the serial number went to X vendor. They have a decent control about that as far as I know.

So if you have the receipt from Amazon, then you can try contacting them about the issue.

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Nope; I also thought that retailers had serial numbers. But we contacted Amazon before I posted this here, and they said that no, they don't keep records of serial numbers, with or without the receipt number or sales date. –  Dori Nov 4 '10 at 0:12
    
@Dori apparently the only retailers that do this are the “official” apple ones and Apple Stores of course. I’m saying this because we didn’t have Apple Stores here in Spain (now we do) but I always brought my machines in an “apple reseller” and they keep tight control of that. –  Martín Marconcini Nov 4 '10 at 10:27

I know this is old, but I'm sure lots of people are being redirected here from Google.

OS X may not have the serial number of it's device stored anywhere, but chances are you can find your MAC address, which, just like the serial number, uniquely identifies your machine. One example where the MAC is being stored in OS X would be wireless_diagnostics-ilTACd.log which is located inside Wireless diagnostics archive (if exists).

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But MAC addresses can be changed, right? That makes them not very useful as unique identifiers. –  Bart Arondson yesterday
    
Well you can 'mask' your MAC to not show up correctly in DHCP table, but you can't change your real mac address which is written on the laptop body (probably under the back cover) and can be easily seen in the OS X itself despite all the efforts of "changing" it. Thus if police finds ones stolen MacBook, they could easily tell if it's yours or not. –  SmOg3R yesterday
    
Come to think of it, I once got the motherboard replaced of my MacBook Pro and when I got the laptop back a sticker with the new MAC address was covering the old addres printed on the lower casing. So the MAC address is tied to the board, which can be replaced. I'm not sure though if my serial number changed w.r.t. the one written on the receipt. –  Bart Arondson yesterday
    
Both MAC address and serial number are tied to the board. Replacing the board is like putting new computer (hardware) into an old chassis. –  SmOg3R yesterday

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