What is A Mac Address - Everything You Need to Know

MAC Address – Everything You Need to Know

In the internet world, transferring data from your computer to another relies on addresses. You might have a slight idea of the software address (IP), but there’s another one as important that most of you know little to nothing about – a hardware address dubbed as MAC address.  Although they’re taken care of automatically by the operating system, you should know how critical it is while managing computers. Don’t worry, as technical as it is; this guide is a simple read. Here’s everything you need to know about MAC Addresses.

What is A Mac Address - Everything You Need to Know
What Is A Mac Address – Everything You Need to Know

Do you want to find out everything there is about MAC addresses? What’s the difference between this one and an IP address? How they work together? Find out in this 5-minute comprehensive read.

MAC Address – Inside the Digits

If you own any network-enabled hardware, you’ll find that it has a unique identifier called a MAC address. The abbreviation is short for Media Access Control – these digits are provided directly by the manufacturer itself, and it’s hardcoded into the component.

As I mentioned above, you’re familiar with what an IP address is. However, IPs can be easily changed by the network administrator, while MAC addresses are there to stay, as in permanent. This type of address is used to exchange information between computers on the local network.

You’re here to learn everything about them, so I think you should refer to them as hardware addresses or physical addresses just like most of the users do. MAC addresses consist of a 12 digit code in the form of: “AA:AA:AA:BB:BB:BB.” The manufacturer assigns the AA part of the address, and the BB part refers to the specific type of the device.

You’ll find dozens of guides pitting IP addresses against MAC, using the term IP vs. MAC. However, you should know that both of them are equally important when it comes to networking. It’s very simple

“Without a MAC, your adapter can’t receive an IP address. Without an IP, your device can’t connect to the internet.”

Well, you can’t get rid of your MAC, so the connection process will go smoothly.

But Why Do MAC Addresses Exist?

Aside from gaining the ability to choose which device gets to connect to your internet connection, there are a lot more things MAC addresses are used for. Here’s a couple.

  • Track Your Device: Renew London company used bins, which recorded details of a whopping 4,009,676 devices in the pockets of passers-by. That’s simply based on their MAC addresses. So, if your device has its Wi-Fi on, you can track it using its MAC address.
  • Picking Connected Devices: If you’re an administrator of a local network, you can ban a device from accessing the network by listing its MAC. Therefore, you get to choose which device can access the connection.
  • Identifying a Certain Device: With a MAC, you identify a specific device with ease. Imagine you’re in a coffee shop or at the airport. These public networks give you a specific amount of time to access their network. However, when the connection period runs out, you’ll be disconnected. How do they know it’s your device? The MAC Address.
  • Assigning Static IPs: Once a device is connected to the internet, the router will assign a specific IP address based on the MAC the device is holding.

Came Across NIC?

Both IP and MAC addresses are tied to a key connection device on your computer. That’s exactly where you came across the word Network Interface Card (NIC). Not familiar with the term? Think of it as a circuit card that allows your computer to connect to a network.

With NIC, your device can turn data into electrical signals that can be transmitted over the network. There’s no almost in the phrase. In fact, every NIC has a hardware address, which is a MAC. IP addresses work with TCP/IP, while MAC addresses are linked to the hardware of network adapters.

Another Term – ARP

ARP is a protocol above ethernet, like IP. It maps a dynamic IP address to a permanent physical machine address in a local area network. By the physical address, I’m referring to MAC. Well, by now, you should.

This is how it works. When a packet arrives at a gateway, the gateway asks the ARP program to find the MAC that matches the IP address. But how is all the information maintained? Simple, a table called ARP Cache has a record of each IP address and its corresponding MAC address.

In simple terms, when a device asks to know the MAC of a specific IP, ARP sends a packet to the broadcast MAC asking, “Whose IP is this?”. All the devices connected to the network will receive the packet, but only the one with the required IP will respond with, “It’s me.”

Now, the asking device will know the right MAC address to use. The ARP Cashe table has stored the information, which means you won’t need to re-do the process again for this specific MAC address.

How to Check Your MAC Address

Now that you know what a MAC is and used for, let me teach you how to find it. Each device has a specific MAC address, including mobiles. So, I’ll be showing you a step by step process on the most used devices now. Let’s start.

Your Mac Address on Android

Android’s MAC address is very easy to find. Follow the steps, and you’re there. I’ve also included screenshots to help you out.

  1. First, head over to your Android’s Settings.
  2. Next, tap on About Phone.About Phone
  3. After that, click on Status.Click on Status
  4. Finally, you’ll find your Android’s MAC exactly where the cursor is pointing in the following image.Adnroid MAC Address

MAC Address on iOS

Just as simple as the method with Android. Your iOS’ MAC address is easily obtained with a few clicks here and there. I used an iPhone as an example, but with an iPad, it’s going to be the same process. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Navigate to your iOS’ Settings.iPhone Settings 1
  2. On the next screen, click on General.iPhone General
  3. Once you press on General, navigate to About.
  4. Now, you’ll see “Wi-Fi Address.” That’s your iPhone’s MAC Address.iPhone's MAC Address

A MAC on Mac (Get it?)

Alright, so getting a MAC address on your macOS is the easiest among all. Follow these steps, and you’ll get what you’re looking for:

  1. On the top left of your screen, click on the Apple Sign, and choose System Preferences.System preferences Mac
  2. Once in, tap on Network.Network Mac
  3. On the next page, you’ll find the network settings. Click on Advanced.Advanced
  4. Finally, click Hardware, and you’ll find your macOS’ MAC address there.Mac's MAC Address

Finding your Windows PC’s MAC Address

Now, this part demands some technical skills. Windows PC hasn’t made it easy for you to figure out your system’s details. Therefore, follow these steps carefully if you wish to find out what your MAC address is:

  1. On your Windows PC, open the Start Menu.Windows Start Menu
  2. Type in the search engine, Cmd. This will show the Command Prompt Icon. Hit that.Command-Prompt
  3. Once in, type the following without quotations “ipconfig/all.”IPconfig All
  4. All the details of your PC will show up. Just scroll until you find your Physical Address (MAC Address).Windows PC MAC

What About Routers?

This one is easy. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. First, you have to get your routers IP address. If you’re on Mac, you’ll find in Network – Advanced. However, on PC, type “ipconfig/all” in command prompt, and you’ll find it.
  2. Copy and paste the IP address in a browser to access your router.
  3. Enter your user name and password.TP Link Log In
  4. Click on Status on the left side of the screen.
  5. You’ll find your MAC on the LAN section.MAC Address Router

It’s Permanent Yet Spoofable

Although it’s burned in by the manufacturers, MAC addresses can be changed easily. Well, the term change isn’t the right one to choose here, so let’s stick to spoof or clone. Sometimes, it’s essential to spoof your MAC address to resolve or troubleshoot networking issues.

However, on some occasions, hackers use this technique to gain access to MAC filtered networks. Before I show you how to do so, this guide is for basic information, here at WhatisMyIP.Network, we don’t tolerate such acts.

So, if you’re being blocked at work from accessing Wi-Fi, need more time on the airport’s network, or want to avoid being tracked (on some level), here’s what you need to do:

Spoof a MAC on Mac (Never Gets Old)

  1. First, you need to check what your real MAC address is. You learned that above.
  2. Now, open Terminal and type down the following: “sudo ifconfig en0 ether” followed by the new MAC Address. I’m not going to put a real MAC address in order not to confuse you. It should look like this (AA:AA:AA:BB:BB:BB represents your MAC Address):Terminal MAC Address
  3. Now, you’ll be asked to submit a password to complete the process.
  4. Type in your password.Terminal Password
  5. Now enter the following ‘ifconfig en0 | grep ether’ to make sure the change took place.
  6. There you have it. You now have a new MAC Address.

Spoof MAC Address on Windows PC

To start the process, press the Windows button along with X on your keyboard.

  1. After that, click on Device Manager -> Expand Network Adapters -> Right-Click your Ethernet or Wireless Adapter -> Select Properties.mac-ethernet-1
  2. Inside Properties, click on the Advanced tab on the top of the Window.
  3. Scroll down to find Locally Administered Address. On the right side, there’s a Value Box where your MAC Address is. mac-ethernet-2
  4. Now change that to whatever address you see fit, click OK, and restart your device.
  5. To make sure the change took place, launch CMD.
  6. Type: ipconfig/all then tap Enter to check the physical address.Windows-MAC-ipconfig
  7. Now, you have a new MAC on your Windows PC.

What About iOS, Routers, and Android?

When you’re using Android, you’re going to need some external help. By that, I mean a downloadable application. Once you obtain your MAC, download an app from Google Play called Terminal Emulator for Android. It has everything you need to change your MAC.

As for iOS users, unfortunately, you guys, it’s not possible. It was once possible if you jailbreak your iPhone 8 (maximum). But now, with the new generation, you can’t do anything about it. Apple won’t even allow third-party Apps, especially for this kind of purpose.

MAC Adress – The Ultimate Guide

IP and MAC addresses are two critical elements of networking. Most of the internet users know all about what an IP address is. However, they leave behind something as important, a MAC Address.

Now, for those who haven’t come across this term before, you have a full guide. You now know what a MAC address is, how it works, and how to spoof it if necessary. If you’re looking to change your MAC on different devices and they’re not stated above, please leave a comment so I can update the guide.

Tania Becker

Tania's work at Whatismyip.network revolves around covering the latest cybersecurity news. She has also written several guides on how to bypass regional restrictions.


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