What Is A MAC Address?

A Media Access Control (MAC) Address is a unique identification number or a unique string that is used to identify individual devices on a network. The MAC address is also referred to as a hardware or physical address. The MAC address is embedded into the hardware of a network device during the manufacturing process. Usually, the MAC address is static however with the proper knowledge it is possible to spoof a MAC address to show a custom or different MAC address sometimes temporarily and other times permanently. The format MAC addresses come in is a twelve-digit hexadecimal numeric format which has about 48 bits which is equivalent to 6 bytes in length. A few examples of MAC addresses below:

  • AC:3C:5F:50:CE:BB
  • FE:B1:8D:70:4F:41
  • 9E:8B:7E:14:76:FA
  • D2:E7:77:22:1A:65
  • 41:84:1D:C2:FF:33
  • 30:44:2E:40:13:C4

The MAC address is formed in accordance with the rules of the three numbering namespaces which is managed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers also known as IEEE. Big manufacturers like Dell, Cisco, Nortel, etc place a unique Identifier in the MAC addresses which are known as Organizational Unique Identifier (OUI) an example would be Dell: 00-14-22.

What Is The Purpose Of A MAC Address?

There are several different purposes for having a MAC address, but the main reason is to identify different devices and making them unique in order to properly direct traffic over a network. To explain, if every MAC address was the same the internet router or switch would not know who to send what requested information to because there is no unique identifier. However, if we were able to identify who is who then the requested information can be properly delivered. In case what was stated is not clear enough to think of it like this. If there are twenty people in a room and each person is placing an order for food and when taking the order, the person writes down the name and when the order is done the person will deliver the food to the person with the matching name. But if everyone’s name is Henry how is it possible to identify who is who? Instead, if everyone had different names then it will be possible to deliver each order to the appropriate person.

The other purpose of the MAC address is the ability of the filtering process. To explain, when on a network it is possible to configure the router to only allow a device to connect if and only if the MAC address is added to the whitelist table and if it is not then no access is given even if they are connected to the router or network. This can help track network users, limit access, monitor stolen devices, and identify devices that connect to the network. This is usually one of the reasons companies ask for MAC addresses of a device and keep in mind never reveal your MAC Addresses to anyone only authorized personnel.

How To Find The MAC Address?

There are a few ways to find the MAC address of your device depending on the device. The first and possibly the easiest if available is checking the label on the device or box. If the address exists there then problem solved all is done however, if it is not then we must get it from the software itself.

 Android Phone (Note: These steps may change based on the android version and phone model)

  1. Open Settings
  2. Click About Phone
  3. Click Status
  4. You should See WLAN MAC Address

iPhone

  1. Open Settings
  2. Click General
  3. Click About
  4. You should See Wi-Fi Address

Windows

  1. Open Command Prompt (CMD)
  2. Type “ipconfig/all” And Press Enter
  3. You Should See Physical Address

Macintosh

  1. Click Apple Icon
  2. Select System Preference
  3. Select Network
  4. Click Advanced
  5. Select Hardware And You Should See MAC Address