What Is a MAC Address?

No matter how you're connecting to the internet, it always takes a variety of software and hardware working together to allow communication from your device to other devices. Additionally, just like physical mail, getting the data to the right place is all about the address. In this article, we'll discuss the MAC address (what it is, what it looks like, and how to find it on your device).

What Is A MAC Address?

A MAC (Media Access Control) address identifies your physical device in order to connect to a network. Unlike internet protocol (IP) addresses, the manufacturer assigns MAC addresses and never change.

Think of the MAC address like a sort of serial code or physical network address that identities the device to the network. When every internet capable device begins in development, the manufacturer assigns each device's network adapter a unique address to identify it on network interfaces.This gives the device the ability to connect to a network which is necessary for the device to connect to the internet. Because the number is assigned to the physical device by the manufacturer, it cannot be changed by the user.

Usually, MAC addresses are tied to a component in your device referred to as a network interface controller (NIC). The NIC is what communicates your MAC address to the network, enabling the connection.

MAC Addresses And Networking

To clarify, the reason for the MAC address is to identify the device on a wireless network. To prevent unauthorized access to a network, the router only accepts devices specific to it. For instance, if the IP changes, it still identifies the device. Furthermore, the address is sometimes used in data recovery to connect to a wireless device.

Additionally, they can be used to diagnose network problems because they never change. This makes it easy for network administrators to pinpoint problems with specific devices that are sending and receiving data on the network.

What Does A MAC Address Look Like?

The MAC address is a combination of numbers, letters, and colons. Here is an example:

00:00:5e:00:53:af

Also, each manufacturer has its own unique identifier within the address known as the Organizationally Unique Identifier (OUI). For example, some well-known manufacturers OUI (although some manufacturers may have more than one) are shown below.

Cisco: 00-40-96

Nortel: 00-04-DC

Dell: 00-14-22

How To Find Your MAC Address

Windows 10

To find the address on a Windows computer, type "ipconfig /all" from the Command Prompt and press enter. This will show quite a bit of information. More specifically, it will provide the MAC address next to the "Physical Address" label.

Mac OS X

Finding it on a Mac computer is a bit different. First, go to System Preferences, then select Network. Then, select the name of the network you're on and click Advanced. The address should then be shown next to "Wi-Fi address." 
Fingers searching for mac address on mac keyboard

Chromebook

On a Chromebook, click status area next to your account profile picture. Then, click the section called Connected to. Pick your network, and the MAC address will appear next to Hardware address.

iPad / iPhone

To find the address on an iPad or iPhone, go to Settings > General in your devices home page. Then select About and it will appear under the setting Wi-Fi Address.

Android

On an Android phone, first navigate to the Settings screen. Then, select About Phone > Status / Hardware Information. Once there, scroll down to see your MAC address.

Boost Your Security With MAC Filtering

With most routers, you can add a security measure to your local network called MAC filtering. This measure makes it so only trusted MAC addresses can connect to the network. This way, a hacker or other nefarious actor will be unable to connect to your network.

Conclusion

Once again, the manufacturer defines the MAC address and the end user cannot modify it. These are necessary for identifying your specific device and allowing for internet connection. They are also useful for diagnosing network issues, and can even be leverages to boost the security of your network.