Mac 411

In my line of work, I'm often asked questions about particular Mac models -- what expansion ports they have, what type of RAM they use, what's the most recent version of the Mac OS they support, and so on. Despite my years of experience with Macs, and contrary to the misconceptions of my friends, I'm not a walking encyclopedia of Mac specs and information. I admit I have to look things up once in a while. But when I do, I don't waste my time searching Apple's Knowledge Base or wading through the results of a Google search. Instead, I turn to the free Mactracker 3.0b (   ; www.mactracker.ca; donations accepted).

Mactracker is a browsable and searchable database of information on virtually every Apple product ever made, from to 128ks to G5s, eMates to Xserves, QuickTakes to keyboards, LCs to LCDs. (It even covers the ill-fated Mac clones from Motorola, PowerComputing, and UMAX.) Each entry in Mactracker is chock full of more information than you'll ever need to know about that product, down to the most minute detail: processor, bus speed, drives, memory, graphics card, size, weight, supported OS versions, latest firmware update...you name it. I'm not even going to try to list all of the information available in Mactracker; instead, here are a few examples of questions Mactracker can answer:

  • What type of RAM should you buy to upgrade the original 12" PowerBook G4? (PC2100 DDR266 200-pin SO-DIMM)
  • What video card shipped with the "QuickSilver" Power Mac G4? (NVIDIA GeForce2 MX on the 733MHz model; GeForce2 MX with TwinView on the 867MHz model; and GeForce3 on the dual-800MHz model)
  • How heavy was the LaserWriter 8500? (70.4 pounds)
  • What's the newest operating system officially supported on the Power Mac G3 (Beige) Mini-Tower? (Mac OS X 10.2.x)
  • What was the machine ID of the Power Mac G4 Cube (PowerMac5,1)
  • How many USB ports does the current eMac have? (Three, all USB2.0)
  • How many internal drive bays did the "Blue and White" Power Mac G3 have? (Four 3.5" ATA bays -- supporting Ultra ATA/33 -- and a Zip 100 bay)
  • What was the resolution of the AudioVision 14 Display? (640x480 @ 66.7Hz)
  • When was the Apple Color OneScanner released? (1991; it was discontinued in 1992)
  • What's the power consumption of a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5? (A maximum of 600W)
  • What was the codename of the eMate 300? (Schoolbook, Project K, Shay)

(Mactracker can even help you figure out the differences between the myriad Performa models, or the various iterations of the Power Mac G4, which is quite an accomplishment.)

As a nice bonus, each product entry in Mactracker features an image of the product, a brief description pulled (with permission) from The Apple Museum or apple-history.com, and -- for computers -- an audio demo of the model's startup chime. You can even enter your own notes and URLs for each product.

Suffice it to say that if you need information about an Apple product, Mactracker will have it. And although you may be tempted to write Mactracker off as a geeky reference up there with the Klingon Dictionary, Mactracker is not just for us "professionals" -- by showing you your Mac's technical specs, what kind of RAM it takes, peripheral compatibility, etc., it's also a great resource for upgrading. It's even useful when selling your Mac, since you'll have a complete set of tech specs to list with your ad. (Likewise, buyers of used Macs can see at a glance if the machine they're considering is complete.)

Mactracker is the most comprehensive -- and easy to use -- resource on Apple products I've seen. The fact that it's free is icing on the cake. (Although if you end up using it, I encourage you to send the developer a donation using the link on the Mactracker website.)

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