What is Media Access Control (MAC) address?

MAC address is a 12-digit or 48-bit hexadecimal unique ID that identifies a Network Interface Controller (NIC) of a network device. By unique it means each device or computer has a unique MAC address that is different from any other computer on the planet.

It is worth noting that, unlike IP address, MAC address is embedded in NIC and is permanent. For this reason, MAC address is also popularly known as physical address. Since the address is embedded in the NIC card. Thus, MAC address is also referred to Burned-In-address (BIN). MAC address is key in networking. Thus, also it is also popularly known as the network address.

MAC Address Example, Format and Syntax

A MAC address is a 12 digits unique ID. The 12 digits are grouped into 6 blocks of 2 digits each. The 6 blocks are then separated by an hyphen to form MAC address.

Bitwise, each of the the 6 blocks is one byte in size. One size is equivalent to 8 bits. Therefore, a MAC address is 6 x 8 = 48 bits in size. That’s why we had earlier defined a MAC address as 48-bit long unique ID address.

An Example of MAC Address 68-17-20-A4-D6-B8. Notice that it is a mix of numbers and letters in some blocks. That mix is what we referred to as hexadecimal.

What is the Role of MAC Address in Networking?

The main function of a MAC address is to identify devices within a local network. By local network, interconnected devices connecting to one router. Therefore, a router uses MAC address to identify devices connected within a network.

Relationship Between MAC Address and IP address

The router use MAC address to route data from the internet to a specific computer within the network. A router keeps a list of MAC address for all devices connected to the local network.

To identify the devices, the local router keeps a list of MAC addresses of all devices connected to the network. Then, it assigns a private IP address for each MAC address.

Therefore, the router will use MAC address to forward packets to the corresponding IP address. That’s how you able to receive a mail sent to you in your laptop.

How Media Access Control Address and Router Works

A router connects a local network to the internet. Your laptop connects to the local router. The local router must, therefore, use MAC address to identify your computer.

Think of an office with, say, with 10 computers. How does the local router ensure that a mail sent to you will land in your computer? By use of MAC and IP address.

How to identify you Computer’s MAC Address

There are two ways you can identify your computer’s MAC address. First, by physically reading the address as embedded in your NIC card. Secondly, by displaying network settings in your CMD command interface.

How to identify MAC address in Windows

  1. Click start menu. Then type “cmd” in the search box and click enter to launch cmd window.
  2. Just type “ipconfig /all” in cmd window then hit enter.
  3. Scroll down to find “physical address.” That’s the MAC address.

Note that you may find several physical addresses. Don’t worry, relax. Those are different MAC addresses for various NIC cards for different network you connect. These could be wireless network, wifi network, and LAN network among others.

How to identify Media Access Control address in Mac

  1. Navigate to Apple menu and select system preferences. 
  2. Choose Network option.
  3. In wireless adapter MAC choose Airport.
  4. The Airport ID is the MAC address.

Conclusion

A Media Access Control (MAC) address is unique hexadecimal ID a device in a network. It is 12 digits long or 48 bits in size. An example of MAC address is 68-17-20-A4-D6-B8.

Each device has a MAC ID unique to itself. Thus, each network device has a unique MAC address different from any other.

The main function of MAC address networking. Routers use MAC address to assign IP address to computers or devices with a network.

You can identify your computers MAC address in windows through cmd prompt. In mac devices, you can identify MAC address in the Apple menu as explained above.