Date & Time Gathering

Gathering the Date and Time from a Macintosh is likely the number 1 question that I have received from people! Let’s take a look at a safe way to get that information from a Macintosh that has OS X installed!

With Macs, there is no BIOS and no F2 key to we can press.  There are two architectures to consider on Macs, PowerPC and Intel.  On the PowerPC platform, OpenFirmware is being used from Sun. On the Intel platform, Extensible Firmware Interface is being used from Intel. Both architectures are capable of running the latest operating system, Mac OS X.

That leads into the answer on how to obtain the "Date & Time".  If you happen to know that the Mac is running version 10 of the operating system, Mac OS X, then this procedure will work.  If you don't know, then you must find out first!

All Intel based Macs will be running Mac OS X!  They do not support OS 9 so the answer is easy.

Let's assume for a moment we have determined the Mac has OS X installed.  Here is the procedure to gather the Date & Time.

With a working monitor and keyboard attached, and the Mac plugged in, perform the following steps:

  1. Press the Power button and immediately hold down the Option key on the keyboard.
  2. You will be presented with one of two screens.  Either you will see the available boot partitions or you will see a password dialog.  If you see a password dialog, proceed to Open Firmware Pass note at the end of this.
  3. Now that you have the available boot partitions on the screen, you have confirmed that no Open Firmware Password has been applied to this Macintosh.  An Open FIrmware Password would prevent us from performing step 5!
  4. Power off the Macintosh by holding the Power button for about 4 seconds.
  5. Press the Power button and immediately hold down the Command (Apple) and 'S' keys.  This will cause the Mac to enter Single User Mode.
  6. The Mac will display text across the screen and a prompt near the bottom.  Type "date" and press Return.  This will give you the data & time of the Mac along with the time zone information as set by the user!
  7. The Mac can be safely shutdown now.

Open Firmware Password Note:  When an Open Firmware Password has been applied, access to Single User Mode (among other boot time features) are blocked.  There is a documented reset feature from Apple to get rid of this password, but it will unfortunately reset the clock as well.

Single User Mode Note: It is always possible that an advanced user has disabled Single User Mode. If the Mac does not boot into Single User Mode as expected, note this and power it off.

What other steps can you take?

Use the Mac OS X Install DVD! If you have determined that Open Firmware Password has not been applied, you can boot off of your own media. Boot from the Install DVD for this Macintosh, and use Terminal that is included on this disc. Run the same ‘date’ command and you will receive the same result.

Use a Linux Live CD! If you have a Live CD that functions for this architecture, you can use the date command and obtain the same information. When using a Linux distribution, I recommend you also do a ‘man’ command on the ‘date’ commandto be certain that the output you receive is exactly what you are anticipating.