For a number of devices that were stolen, can I find their serial number on a Mac that I still have and which the devices have been connected to at some point? In other words, are there any applications (or the OS) which might have kept a record of any of these devices' serial number(s)? I'm specifically thinking about:

  • iPod
  • Cinema Display
  • Time Capsule
  • another Mac
  • a camera

Would the connections have shown up in a log file somewhere with their serial number included? At least for an iPod, I wouldn't be surprised if its serial number gets recorded by iTunes somewhere. And iPhoto just might record a camera's as well.

2 Answers 2


How to get serial numbers for displays:

Go to /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver.plist. Open this with TextWrangler or a similar utility. Look for a DisplaySerialNumber key with an integer value that isn't 0. With any luck, this should be the s/n of your display.
If you haven't used this display for a while, the records of it may be gone.
Also, it appears that this isn't guaranteed. Double-check if possible.

How to get the serial numbers for iPods:

Open /Library/Preferences/com.apple.ipod.plist.
Look under the Devices dictionary. Any iPod you've connected will have all its info there, including the s/n (under Serial Number).

Good luck.

  • Any idea how the DisplaySerialNumber field in the file "com.apple.windowserver.plist" relates to the serial number as found on the display itself? I've managed to find my display's serial number in an old e-mail to Apple support, and I've also found entries for the display in the file. The two numbers do look somewhat similar, but they're not exactly the same. (For one, the real serial number contains digits and letters, while the field in the file only has digits. Some digits appear in one that are not in the other.)
    – Rinzwind
    Jan 14, 2011 at 21:24
  • Sorry to hear it. I guess it strips alpha characters for efficiency. The reason for it to keep the number is just so that it knows which display to put a window on, and I guess it doesn't need the whole thing to keep it straight. Jan 14, 2011 at 21:33
 $ grep -i serial /Library/Preferences/*.plist

Shows TimeMachine and BlueTooth in addition to the two files mentioned by @Nathan.

Also, the iPod plist in ~/Library/Preferences contains serial numbers.

  • The Bluetooth file just refers to a serial port. TM doesn't show up on mine. Trying another backup now to see if it appears. Jan 14, 2011 at 21:02
  • Still no TM on mine. Jan 14, 2011 at 23:35

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