According to MacRumors, Apple will completely change how the serial numbers for Macs are generated. The numbers will soon be fully randomized, meaning that users, IT managers, repair-shop technicians, and others will not be able to glean the same information from them that the current serial number system provides.
Serial numbers on Macs shipping today reflect the time and place where the Mac was assembled, as well as some configuration details like storage capacity. Moving forward, serial numbers will be fully random, with no code or consistency that can be used to learn information about the product. The new numbers will be between eight and 14 characters long.
MacRumors claims it learned of the change when it gained access to an internal AppleCare email. This change does not apply to Mac models that are shipping today, but it will go into effect for future Macs the company will introduce. That includes the rumored MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac refreshes expected later this year, as well as new Mac Pro models that appear to be planned for a later date.
According to the email, the change was initially planned to go into effect in 2020, but it was pushed back. The email now says it will happen in “early 2021.” Curiously, the most reliable rumors and leaks about upcoming Mac products have placed them in the second half of 2021, with only iPad refreshes initially expected in the coming weeks. But the date may refer to something besides the products’ final ship date; we’ll have to wait and see.
Serial numbers are used in online forums, repair shops, and company IT departments to expedite troubleshooting and other tasks by quickly learning more about the machine in question—for example, whether a computer that is exhibiting a problem is part of a certain set of models manufactured in a certain time period that all have that issue. Some of the information will still be accessible after either booting the machine up or taking it apart.
Apple has not publicly confirmed this change or explained the reasons, but we have reached out to the company for comment.