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What’s Connected to Your Mac? System Information to the Rescue

What’s connected to your Mac?

How does your Macintosh know what it’s connected to? Or how do you know when a device isn’t seeing your Mac? 

A significant headache happens when you plug something in, and it doesn’t show up. Is it the cable? Is it the device? Is it the port? Your Mac keeps a dynamic list of everything the operating system sees. It’s visible inside an application called System Information.

There are two ways to get there. Either navigate to Applications > Utilities and launch System Information. Or you can go to the Apple menu. Highlight “About this Mac…” Then Hold down the option key, and now it says “System Information”.

Now we get some long lists! 

On the left, Hardware has a long list of items that may be attached. For example, I’m 100% sure that there hasn’t been a Firewire connection on my Macintosh for a decade.

I generally look at the USB chain first, as it’s the most common place for a piece of hardware to be plugged in. Wait, do you have a Thunderbolt dock? USB items appear in the USB section, even if they’re connected to a Thunderbolt Dock. 

A look at my setup

Just to give you a feel for my setup, I have quite a bit of kit connected. This includes:

  • A Stream Deck XL and a regular Stream Deck
  • A LoupeDec CT
  • An Elgato Cam Link 4k (attached to a mirrorless camera)
  • A generic mechanical keyboard (what can I say, I like the “clicky clicky” feel)
  • An Apple keyboard (when I need silent typing)
  • A Logitech 502 mouse, because I want a mouse with weights (seriously, you can add/remove weight from it)

The video will show far more. It’s worth exploring everything your Mac sees.

For instance, I have my iPhone attached in the video, then I remove it. The list will not update until I go to the File Menu > Refresh. Or hit Command+R.

The rule is if System Information can’t see it, neither can your Mac. Maybe it’s the cable. Perhaps it’s the port. Perhaps it’s the device. But if you can’t see it in System Info, neither can your Mac.

A rare (but remarkable) headache is when System Information sees a device, but your Mac doesn’t. Then it’s usually that your Mac is missing some critical piece of software or driver.

There is even the ability to save your System Report to it send to someone else. Just be warned, they get all your serial numbers and other identifying information (which I had to blur in the video!)

If you’ve never tried it out, System Information provides a great many insights into your Mac! 

Jeff Greenberg
the authorJeff Greenberg
Jeff Greenberg is an Editor/Colorist/Consultant in post. An early adopter, he sent his first email in the 80s. He chairs conferences and is a Master Trainer (teaches the “Train the trainer” classes for the major NLEs.) Most of all, he’s a Dad and Filmgeek. And hates being defined by fifty words. Just like you.
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