What Is a Serial Number and Why Do I Need It?

9 min read

You have probably seen serial numbers many times, as most of your surrounding products have one. In the case of hardware products, you can see serial number on the device’s surface. Software product serial numbers are usually visible once you enter the software with your authorized access. 

What is a serial number


In whatever location, serial numbers appear for all hardware and software. Serail number, also SN, S/N, or Serial No. is a unique combination of letters and numbers that are used for the following primary purposes:


  • identify each separate product and make the inventory control simpler,
  • provide warranty for the users whose products are recalled,
  • distinguish between legitimate and counterfeit products. 


Curious about what is a serial number? Let’s figure it out below. 


What is a serial number?


As briefly stated in the introduction, a serial number includes unique numbers and letters assigned to each product individually. This means, if you produce 1000 computers of the same brand and the same model, they will have 1000 different serial numbers. 


On the contrary, the model be the same for all 1000. However, models often look like a serial number for the naked eye.


The below image shows the serial number of a product.

what is a serial number

As you saw, there is no consistency in the number of letters or numbers for S/Ns. The serial number length is not fixed. It largely varies depending on the country of production, a manufacturing company, etc. 


Serial numbers can include from 6 to 20 and more characters. 


How is S/N different from other identification codes? 


Many identification codes visually look like an S/N. However, they are not “as unique as serial no.). Let’s discuss the principal identification codes you might confuse with an SN. 


  • The model number also contains letters and numbers; however, a model number is unique for all the same model products but not for every product unit within the same model. 


  • The same can be stated about UPC Codes. They are also used to classify the inventory products by unique identification number; however, the same UPC is usually assigned to a group of similar products and not to each item within the group separately. 


What is a serial number for companies?


Hardware producers use serial numbers to track each item in production and implement proper inventory control. So that when an item leaves the warehouse, the system fixes it. 


It’s also helpful when producers provide a warranty for tech products. Serial numbers help identify which detail needs repair or replacement quickly, and it’s easier to fix it. 


For example, your new computer might have issues while working, and a specialist can quickly detect which part of the computer causes the problem. After you know the needed part, you or a manufacturing company can promptly order the missing part by its serial number. 


Serial numbers also help companies give a detailed report of the device’s working status to clients. You can be informed about what was broken and what you should be careful with. 




What is a serial number for customers?


As you probably know, many brands face the issue of fake products. It’s when market players produce the more affordable counterfeit of the legitimate products. This is a significant issue not only for producers but also for the buyers. 


When you pay a lot of money, you don’t want to receive a fake product in exchange. This especially refers to such expensive items as watches or else. 

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Inventory, Order & Shipping Management Software



Here when the serial number comes in handy. It usually can’t be faked; when a company registers a specific produced item with some serial number, the other company can’t take the same serial anymore.


So, you can search the product you are about to buy by the serial number, which will give you detailed information about a producer, production date, etc. 


Here, we should clarify a new concept for you, true serial number lookup, which you can learn in more detail in the next section. 


How do I look up an item by a serial number?


There are two main options you can do: search the serial number directly in the manufacturer’s website or search it in the serial number databases. 


Manufacturer’s website


For example, you can track the Swatch item numbers on their official website, where each of the engraved figures and numbers represents a production code, country code, and sequential numbers. 

If someone offers you to buy an original Swatch product, but you are not sure whether that’s an original production or counterfeit, you can look it up by the S/N. 


So, distinguishing between an original and fake product is one of the answers to your “what is a serial number” question. 


Serial numbers databases


Some databases incorporate the product information of different companies in one place, where you can search for the S/N information. 


In Have it Back, for example, you can search for not only a serial number but also vehicle ID, Card number, Chip number, and other identification codes. 


Use S/N for inventory control 


Have your inventory classified by serial numbers to track every product with its multiple components. This will allow you to implement the stock levels and know when to place your orders so as to avoid understocking. 


What’s more, shift from manual inventory management to an automated one with a multichannel inventory management software eSwap.


You can connect all your product listings from eCommerce channels like eBay, Amazon, Shopify, and others to eSwap with several clicks, and have instant reportings on all your orders, payments, and sales statistics in a single place. 


Not sure how to start your transformation to automatization? Request a demo call with us to help you get started!