I have a Mac that someone asks me to help them sell. They already wiped the hard drive and put a fresh installation of macOS on it. Upon boot, it's at the "Welcome" setup with no users intialized yet.

Is there an easy way to see the System Information and version of macOS currently installed on this machine without creating a new user? I'd like to leave this machine in a clean state without having to re-wipe the hard drive with a new installation.

  • Do you have another Mac? Want to boot in target disk mode? – bmike Dec 11 '17 at 20:29
  • @bmike Yes, but I'd prefer an answer assuming no other Mac around. Thanks! – Ryan McGeary Dec 11 '17 at 21:42

The following assumes that the Recovery HD has the same version of macOS installed on the Macintosh HD for the accuracy of OS version information.

If you boot the Mac to Recovery Mode, you can access System Information from Terminal using the following command, e.g.:

/Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/usr/sbin/system_profiler

You might what to minimize the output and use and of the following options:

  • -listDataTypes - Lists the available datatypes.
  • -detailLevel level - Specifies the level of detail for the report:
    • mini - Report with no personal information.
    • basic - Basic hardware and network information.
    • full - All available information.

To get just a Hardware: report, use:

  • SPHardwareDataType


/Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/usr/sbin/system_profiler SPHardwareDataType

On my system the outout of the above command was:


    Hardware Overview:

      Model Name: MacBook Pro
      Model Identifier: MacBookPro10,1
      Processor Name: Intel Core i7
      Processor Speed: 2.8 GHz
      Number of Processors: 1
      Total Number of Cores: 4
      L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
      L3 Cache: 8 MB
      Memory: 16 GB
      Boot ROM Version: MBP101.00EE.B12
      SMC Version (system): 2.3f36
      Serial Number (system): <Information omitted for security reasons.>
      Hardware UUID: <Information omitted for security reasons.>


To boot to the Recovery HD, press CommandR when booting the Mac. See also About macOS Recovery

Also, have a look at the manual page for system_profiler

If you want to just get information for some of the -listDataTypes listed, you can add each on the command line, e.g.:

/Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/usr/sbin/system_profiler SPHardwareDataType SPSoftwareDataType

The system_profiler command can be run directly from single-user mode, by pressing CommandS when booting the Mac, without having to provide the fully qualified pathname, however depending on how much information you want from system_profiler, you may need to pipe the output to more to less, etc., as scrolling in single-user mode is not as easy as from Terminal when booted to the Recovery HD.

That said, if all you want is the basic output shown under Hardware: and Software: from using the system_profiler command, then use the following command in single-user mode:

system_profiler SPHardwareDataType SPSoftwareDataType

Note that the software info from single-user mode is that which is install on the Macintosh HD, unlike from the Recovery HD it's that of the OS X Base System and while it should be the same, it may not. The hardware info is accurate in either case.

  • Macintosh\ HD is not always right, so my tip for all, try first cd /Volumes here you get all volumes (in my case it was disks02) then you can use the right volume instead of Macintosh HD, the remaining path is absolutely correct. – kurtanamo Jan 8 '20 at 15:22
  • 7
    On Catalina + Big Sur recovery mode I was getting this error: dyld: Library not loaded: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/SPSupport.framework/Versions/A/SPSupport. The fix was to first chroot /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD zsh. After that, /usr/sbin/system_profiler works as expected. – Nate Pinchot Jan 22 at 19:11

In my case system_profiler would not load (Abort trap: 6), and sw_vers only shows the OS version. I needed the processor, memory and disk details.

Boot into Recovery Mode, holding Command+R at boot. Then go into Utilities > Terminal


$ sysctl -n machdep.cpu.brand_string
Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-5257U CPU @ 2.70GHz


$ sysctl -n hw.memsize

16 GB RAM = 17179869184 / 1024 / 1024 / 1024

Disk Space

$ diskutil list
/dev/disk1 (internal):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                         500.3 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI EFI                     314.6 MB   disk0s1
   2:                 Apple_APFS Container disk1         500.0 GB   disk0s2

500 GB


Easy - boot to single-user mode and then shut down.

  1. Hold S key while booting (if you miss when the chime starts and the setup assistant runs - quit and shut down).
  2. When the black screen shows white text - wait for it to stop and type sw_vers.
  3. Once you’ve recorded the information, type halt.

You can use sw_vers in any mode. Its output looks like this:

$ sw_vers 
ProductName:    Mac OS X
ProductVersion: 10.13.1
BuildVersion:   17B1003
  • Could you give an indication of what it shows if you do? – Maarten Bodewes Dec 11 '17 at 21:17
  • 1
    @Maarten Bodewes, It will output 3 lines, e.g.: ProductName: Mac OS X, Product Version: 10.13.1 and BuildVersion: 17B1003 – user3439894 Dec 11 '17 at 21:27

The best way to do this and to access everything you would otherwise see in System Information is to boot into single-user mode by holding Command + S while booting up. Once you see the white-on-black text, you'll then want to then input:

system_profiler -listDataTypes

This will give you a list of all the different 'DataTypes' or more simply what type of information you can choose to see, very similar to how it's displayed in the System Information app. If, for example, you want to then see battery cycle information, you could then enter:

system_profiler SPPowerDataType

It will then print the Battery Information along with Cycle Count to the screen.

Replacing SPPowerDataType in that previous statement with any of the other listed DataTypes will also return relevant information.


The following is the easiest way I've found to do this:

First boot to the welcome screen, then open the apple menu at the top left (it is hidden until you move the mouse there). Once it is open hold down the option key and "About This Mac" will change to "System Information" which will open the normal system profiler.

Strangely even though "About This Mac" is there you cannot open it.

  1. Enter recovery mode:
    • Intel: by pressing Cmd ⌘ + R when powering on
    • M1: just press the "power on" button and keep it pressed until you see recovery options, then choose "Options"
  2. Open Utilities > Terminal
  3. Type following:
    $ sysctl hw.physicalcpu hw.logicalcpu machdep.cpu.brand_string hw.memsize
    $ diskutil info disk0


  • hw.physicalcpu is number of cores
  • hw.logicalcpu is number of threads
  • machdep.cpu.brand_string is CPU model info
  • hw.memsize is RAM size in bytes, just divide it by 1024^3
  • Device / Media Name is drive hardware name (device name)
  • Disk Size actual physical disk size
  • Protocol will be PCI-Express even for NVME disks, don't worry

Based on @user3439894 and @nate-pinchot answers, you can also try:

$ chroot /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD bash
$ system_profiler SPHardwareDataType SPSoftwareDataType SPPowerDataType

there will be more info, like:

  • Model Identifier
  • Serial Number
  • System Version
  • Cycle Count

In case if you using FileVault this way requires you to unlock startup disk first: After entering Recovery, login into admin user, then press  > Startup disk > Choose Macintosh HD > Remove protection > Type your password > Click "Startup drive" > Quit

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