Learn the fastest way to find the most relevant system information about a Mac. Understand what information should be documented. Learn how to use system information to plan for system upgrades. Understand how to use the command line tools professionals use for system reporting. Sean walks through this crucial first step in administering any computer properly.
- When you plan to upgrade an existing OS X system, you'll be coming from any Mac OS operating system from 10.6.8 all the way through the last version of Yosemite. As such, you'll have some pretty wide variability in what you could be migrating. 10.6.8 contained an application called System Profiler which was later renamed to System Information. If you look at a Mac, today running El Capitan you'll find the System Information application, by either the Apple menu through About This Mac and then the System Report button, or by navigating to the application itself or by running the application from its command line iteration by typing system_profiler at a command line prompt.
Because the utility can provide you with important CPU, RAM, storage, and very importantly, installed application and update information, I recommend that you locate this utility and use it on any system you're preparing to update to El Capitan. You may of course read the system_profiler MAN page and I recommend that you do, but here are a few useful tips about how to use this System Information reporting tool. To begin I want to show you how to find the app itself.
So you go to the Go Menu here, and pull down to Utilities, and down here, in alphabetical order, I see System Information. You can double-click on this icon or the name, and that will open the application. But if I close this window, I want to show you the other way to navigate to it. Click on the Apple, pull down to About This Mac, in the overview area there's a button that says System Report. If you click on that, it opens the same application, System Information. As you can see here within the System Information application there's lots of information in the sidebar, lots of hardware information up top followed by Network, followed by Software.
And within Software, if you click on Applications, the system will actively scan your system, you'll see the little gear going here in the lower right-hand corner and when it's completed, it will present you with a complete list of all applications that are installed on the system. Information like the date last modified, and whether or not they are 64-Bit. So, you can use this list to determine whether or not there are applications installed on the system you're about to upgrade that you might not be able to use.
You can do this by researching with the application vendor, but you could also just send an entire clone of this system over to other hardware, upgrade that, and test to see if the applications work properly. And if you do that, I would recommend doing it all the way through using the application, not just booting it. Another thing that's useful here, is the Installations area. Where it tells you all of the installs that have happened. Now you might ask, what's the difference between installs and applications? And that is that installs are a record of the installation process, not necessarily the installed applications themselves.
So you can see a complete history of all of the software updates that have been installed and applications that have been installed on any given system. This can be very useful to you in planning your upgrade. Let's quit this, and we're going to go to Spotlight and type t-e-r-m-- that just gives us the beginnings of the word terminal which I want to open here so I can show you the System Information iteration here at the command line. Going to increase the size of the window so you can see a little bit better, and I'm going to type a few things here that will give you a head start in using the System Profiler at the command line.
Now I mentioned that it was called System Information before, that is the name of the application in the finder but the command line version is still system_profiler. And at this point if you just run this, if I were to just hit return, I would get a standard report from System Profiler. Basically, all the information that was sitting in the GUI except in this case it would come out in text, and it would just be spit out here within the terminal window. If I control the detail level however, I can type -detaillevel space and I have three options here.
I have mini, basic, and full. I'm going to type mini, because this gives us the shortest report possible and hit return, and this will give you an idea as this data passes across the screen of exactly how much data we're really talking about here. It's quite lengthy, and you can scroll through this information if you're looking for something in particular you can look for that information there. But if you need a file that is more portable, something that you can take with you, or something, for example, you could run via Apple remote desktop and then save out to a file in a specific location and then retrieve that file later, well this is how you would do that.
So to get that file you're going to type system_profiler space -xml That tells System Profiler that we want a file formatted in the xml file format. We want to use the greater than symbol to output the file to a different location. So this is going to take it and instead of putting it into the screen we're working with, it's going to put it out to a file and then we need to give it a direction to go. So I'm using the tilde to redirect specifically to my home folder. And then the path Desktop, and then the name of the report let's name it MacProReport 'cause that's what we're on right now and then I have to type a .spx and the .spx is necessary in order for this file to be openable using the System Information program whenever I get it over to my admin Mac for example.
We finish that off and check our typing to be sure we haven't mistyped a letter someplace, and then we hit return. Now the result of this as you can see is instantly we have a file that's created on the desktop and as soon as it's complete, it'll return us back to a command prompt. So here you can see we've got our command prompt and here is our .spx file which we can now take and put on our admin system, we can file this away for this computer for future reference. It'll give us a last known configuration of this computer which is a great thing to have on file for all of the systems you administer, but is especially useful if you're going to be reviewing system information in preparation for an upgrade.
When you're certain the applications and operating system you're upgrading are compatible with El Capitan, you should move on to checking if the hardware is compatible.
- Understanding the El Capitan system requirements
- Installing and configuring El Capitan
- Protecting user data
- Performing a partial or full-system recover with Time Machine
- Installing applications
- Managing application preferences
- Monitoring the system
- Configuring security
- Directory binding
- Troubleshooting problems
- Understanding Spotlight problems and how to fix them
- Collecting system information