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Four reasons you should use OS X's System Information utility

Topher Kessler | April 29, 2014
When troubleshooting your Mac, you often need to get information about your system and what's going on inside of it, either to help you identify and fix the problem yourself or so you can convey that information to others who might help.

Storage device status
Another area on your Mac that might need troubleshooting attention is its hard drive and any attached secondary drives. This primarily includes the drive's capacity and availability, but in addition you might need to find the type of device and details about ownership, formatting, and whether or not the drive is encrypted.

This information can be found in Apple's Disk Utility program, but is also listed in the Hardware > Storage section of System Information.

Connectivity of peripherals
One last thing in the Hardware section you should check out is the part that details the peripherals connected to your system. This can help you troubleshoot daisy-chaining of devices and also properly match device speeds. For example, you can find out if you have a USB 3.0 hard drive connected via a USB 2.0 hub, which would compromise its performance.

This same approach works for FireWire and Thunderbolt connections, both of which have separate sections under the Hardware category. Simply click these to show the connected devices and their corresponding speeds.

You can also see what peripheral devices are demanding the most power from your bus. For each you should see a Current Available and Current Required. So if you have devices daisy-chained and are experiencing problems with one or two dropping out, you can more evenly distribute the load across your various input ports, or find ways to supply alternate power to these devices (such as using a power adapter rather than bus power).

Third-party software installations
You can also look up the software installed on your system in System Information and see which apps are from Apple and which are from third-party vendors. This information can help you troubleshoot problems, especially if the software is a kernel extension; a bug or two in these can affect the entire system.

To see these details, you can select Extensions, Installations, and Applications under the Software category, and then list each by the Obtained From or Source column to see if they are from Apple or another developer.

While this approach is good primarily just for gathering information, it can help diagnose problems you might be having. Prime candidates are kernel extensions, scanning and maintenance tools, security software, parental-control suites, and firewalls.


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