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Learn the Secret Language of Apple Serial Numbers (While You Still Can)

Apple is planning to reformat its serial numbers for Macs and MacBook this year. Currently, Macs use the same 12-digit alphanumeric serial codes as other Apple products, but Apple will soon switch them to randomized strings between 8 and 12 characters long.

This may seem like an inconsequential change, but the new serial codes will make it harder to look up important information about newer Macs and MacBooks. All Apple devices manufactured between 2010 and early 2021 have serial codes that spell out where and when an Apple device was built, its specific model number, and its hardware configuration.

This information is helpful for users to know when a product gets recalled due to manufacturing errors or if a class-action lawsuit only includes devices from a certain region; or if you need to replace lost or damaged parts;. It also helps you determine if a refurbished product is legit.

Apple will surely have a way of decoding these randomized strings on their end, but they won’t be helpful for general users who want to find out some of this information on their own—at least on new Macs.

Luckily, other Apple products will retain 12-digit serial format, and they’re still printed all Macs and MacBooks made between 2010 and early 2021. As long as your Apple device has a 12-digit serial number, you can use it to learn more about its origin.

How to decode an Apple serial number

There are tools that scan and decode Apple’s 12-digit serial numbers for you, but you can read a lot of that information yourself once you know what each digit means.

First, you need to find your device’s serial number. It’s often printed on the outside of a device, and is also available in the settings app under General > About > Serial Number. The number will look something like this: “DMPC8[#][#][#]N70M.”

Once you’ve found it, it’s time to decode it. Starting left to right, each section of this number tells you something about your device. For example, the first two digits are the assembly plant ID, which tells you where your Apple device was manufactured:

  • 1C, 4H, WQ, F7: China
  • 7J, YM: China – Hon Hai/Foxconn
  • C0: China – Tech Com
  • C3: Shenzhen, China – Foxconn
  • C7: Shanghai, China – Pentagon
  • CK: Cordk, Ireland
  • CY, PT: Korea
  • DL, DM: China – Foxconn
  • DN: Chengdu, China – Foxconn
  • E , SG: Singapore
  • EE, QV, UV: Taiwan
  • F : Fremont, California, USA
  • F1, F2, FK: Zhengzhou, China – Foxconn
  • FC: Fountain Colorado, USA
  • G8, QP, XA, XB: USA
  • MB: Malaysia
  • RN: Mexico
  • VM: Pardubice, Czech Republic – Foxconn
  • W8: Shanghai, China
  • RM: Refurbished

The third digit denotes which assembly line the device was manufactured on. You’d have to know a factory’s assembly line labels to do anything with this number. (It’s mostly used for quality assurance purposes.)

The fourth and fifth digits are the production date. The fourth character represents the year and the fifth represents the week. Decoding this isn’t too hard if you memorize what each character means and are willing to do a little math, but cross-referencing the date code with the table on this page is much easier.

The remaining seven characters represent the product’s model:

  • Digits 6 through 8 are randomized codes that ensure each device manufactured at the same factory on the same week of the same year has a unique serial number.
  • Digits 9 through 11 device model number and generation. All Apple product model numbers are available on this list.
  • The final digit indicates the device’s configuration, like color/storage option, etc. These differ between devices. For example, an “M” at the end of an iPhone serial number indicates its color, while “1” on an iPad is its hardware configuration.

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