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I upgrade my brand new late 2012 Mac Mini's drive to an SSD and changed the RAM. Now when looking up the serial number in "About this mac" or System Profiler it just says "System serial#" :

about my mac

The Mini also performed an OS and EFI update before I noticed the problem. I cannot log in to iMessages and posts an the 'net lead me to believe the non-present serial number may be at fault.

Already tried PRAM reset. Can it be easily reinstated or otherwise fixed ?


Update:

The only deleterious effect seems to be the inability to log in to Messages with my AppleID. [Earlier edit of this question referenced being unable to download Mountain Lion from the App Store, this issue turned out to be unrelated.]

Apple Support sent a new machine and replacing RAM and SSD did not cause a repeat of the problem. This machine is able to log in to Messsages.

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It won't happen again, the chance of you or the parts messing the serial are infinitesimally small (IMO) due to where/how the serial is stored. –  bmike Jan 12 '13 at 12:04
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To quote Einstein "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." Doing the same thing here didn't produce the same problem, showing once again Macs are insanely great. –  Tyr Jan 14 '13 at 18:15
    
Alternatively, it shows once again that Mac users are deranged. Myself included, but it is what it is. ;) –  Kerin Jan 14 '13 at 18:31

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

A lack of a visible serial number should not affect your Mac.

Apple does not guarantee a serial number will be set. Technical Note 1103 warns developers not to rely on a serial number being available to uniquely identify a Mac.

The technical note suggests the serial number can vanish if hardware components are changed. Other reasons appear to be possible but Apple does not enumerate every cause:

Caveats for using the serial number

It is possible for a system to lose its serial number so that it will no longer appear either in System Profiler or the I/O Registry. Repairing a system by swapping hardware components is one reason this can happen. Apple does not document the specific details of how a machine can lose its serial number. Once the serial number has been lost there is no means to restore it to the machine.

Apple does not guarantee that all future systems will have a software-readable serial number.

Both of these cases illustrate why asset tracking software should always provide a way for a serial number to be entered manually.

I am not aware of any further documentation about restoring the serial number. If it is possible, this capability is likely to only be available to Apple engineers or support staff.

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It does affect my mac. I cannot log into Messages and, more worryingly, I cannot download Mountain Lion from the App Store and the version of the installer I have (10.8.1) refuses to run as well. Adding screenies in the question. –  Tyr Jan 12 '13 at 11:43
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The error message does not mention the serial number. What appears in the system.log when you attempt to log into Messages? Why do you think your Mac's serial number is associated with your Messages and App Store problems? –  Graham Miln Jan 12 '13 at 12:36
    
Similar messages on the 'net. Small update: new mini received and SSD transplanted. App Store problems persist and thus not SSN related, Messages problem solved. –  Tyr Jan 14 '13 at 17:46

Use Blank Board Serializer

See http://rogersm.net/icloud-problems-mountain-lion-serial-number for a solution.

Be sure to follow the instructions faithfully.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

    
I would write up the instructions so they stand alone and not just provide a link. –  Deesbek Dec 6 '13 at 0:10

TUAW has an article on this problem, the author had his logic board replaced and apple did not reset the serial number. In essence he did software trouble shooting, reinstalled the os.... at some point he realized he did not have his serial number. As per a comment Apple or an authorize service providers have software that is able to reapply serial numbers and he was able to connect with messages. The link to the story is below.

http://www.tuaw.com/2013/01/14/if-messages-on-os-x-cant-connect-check-your-serial-number/

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The logic board should carry the serial number, so the logical and most likely conclusion would be software corruption or perhaps a failure of the logic board.

Check in terminal to see if the system information is truly missing:

system_profiler SPHardwareDataType

Towards the end of this listing should be a serial number field. Based on this result, you might reinstall the OS (if the serial shows under this command) - and even if this serial were missing, I might still try a reinstallation before taking it in for service. If you are close to a free service like a Genius Bar, you might stop in with the Mini (no need for cables) and ask if they can have a brief look. They'll tell you if you need to remove the RAM/HD or if they can determine the issue / quote a possible repair if it's not software.

The more I think about this, I wonder if the Mac ever had a serial number written to the logic board. I would open a support case (worldwide contact for Apple support here) and get it on the record as needing repair even if you aren't keen to send it in now. The sooner you report something, the more options you have.

Normally, nothing ever fails since most software never reads the number, but it would be nice to have everything working on a Machine that is still under the one year warranty.

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No joy on the terminal command. No Genius Bar nearby either :-( I ordered the system from Apple's online store. There's no official Apple store in Belgium. What a mess. –  Tyr Jan 11 '13 at 5:01
    
The web help is also very good. Start with the support and service links to the top right of the window you posted to show the error. Unless you are sure the serial was here before the upgrade (and those parts are user upgradeable, so you're not likely making problems with that operation) , it could be a rare oops from the factory where they didn't run the step where the logic board gets a serial number. I edited my answer - looks like you get both free phone support and web support in Belgium in English and Flemish if you prefer. –  bmike Jan 11 '13 at 14:57
    
Called Apple Support, they are exchanging the machine for a new one. The guy at the helpdesk had never heard of this problem before. I hate being unique and interesting :-) –  Tyr Jan 12 '13 at 11:54
    
@tyr I've seen it many times - but only once on a new Mac - now twice counting yours. Mine was before App Store days. Would you consider editing the answer out of the question and actually using the "answer your on question" function - especially since you have a very good answer for this. Mark yours as accepted, too! Thanks. –  bmike Jan 12 '13 at 12:02
    
The Appstore stuff turned out to be a red herring as it persists on the fixed mini. Maybe it's running a special version of 10.8.x not yet rolled into the main installer ? So I'm accepting Grahams answer as most correct on the serial number question and editing out the irrelevant App Store part. –  Tyr Jan 14 '13 at 18:05

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