What’s Your MAC Address?

MAC stands for Media Access Control, not one of those fancy computers from Apple. A MAC address is a unique code applied to all hardware that connects to the Internet. That includes computers, smartphones, some memory cards, wireless broadband cards, and any other device with Internet access.

What Does it Look Like?

A MAC address is basically six pairs of letters and numbers. Numbers are 0-9 and letters include A-F. The pairs are separated by colons. An example might be: 00:A0:C9:12:D8:25. The first portion of the address indicates the manufacturer and the second half is the serial number given to the device.

Why Do I Need One?

MAC addresses work as a way to uniquely identify hardware on a network. Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses identify the network being used to access the Internet. Each device connected to a network should have its own unique MAC address. This helps the router in wireless networks allow or deny access to a device based on the address.

Routers

MAC address filtering may be used in some Wi-Fi hotspots as well as in routers. It improves the security of the network and the internet connection. When MAC address filtering is enabled, it requires anyone attempting to access the network to be authenticated. They will need to know the network name and security codes, and the filter will perform an extra check. This greatly decreases the likelihood of a network being compromised.

How to Find Your MAC Address

Locating the MAC address on a device depends upon the operating system being used. In most Windows based systems, users can run ipconfig/all or winipcfg. The physical address is the MAC address. On Macintosh devices, the MAC address may be found in the TCP/IP Control Panel.

Service Providers

On occasion, a service provider may require a MAC address to be registered in order to subscribe to a service. This ensures that the service is only being used by the person paying for it. This is often true for portable devices and the MAC address may be found on a sticker within the device.

Changing Your Address

In the event that a subscriber to a service changes devices, the service may not recognize the new MAC address of the device and might disable connectivity. Users can try to contact the host service to update the information, or they may try to clone the previous address. The cloning process may be found in the advanced configuration settings of the router. A MAC address may also be changed through Windows, using the My Network Places tools, depending on the device drivers.

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