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3 Things You Wanted To Know But Never Asked About MAC Addresses

If you’ve ever looked over the details on your own network card, you could have noticed an awkward-looking number of alphanumeric characters, separated by either semicolons or perhaps a space in a very two-by-two fashion. Next to it is either the label “MAC,” “MAC Address,” or “Hardware Address.” As you gaze upon this sequence of characters, a matter may appear in your head: “What inside name of Torvalds is a MAC address?!” And the answer, fellow travelers, is below.

1: What Is a MAC Address?

“MAC” is short for “media access control,” and it is used when talking about unique addresses that identify the hardware we use to get in touch to the internet. In most people’s cases, this is a network interface controller (NIC).

mac addresses nic

But nobody uses an NIC to connect to the web. Some people use internal WAN adapters to produce wireless connections (through Wi-Fi). These, too, have MAC addresses. Basically, anything connected to the web at all is identified which has a MAC address. And much such as your passport number, it’s unique (at least in your own personal network). At the time each device or network card is manufactured, the maker brands the hardware using the address, that's stored in an on-board chip.

2: What Are MAC Addresses Used For?

That’s the important question, isn’t it? A MAC address feels like a superfluous thing to achieve the moment you have IP addresses. And, on many occasions, you might be right. However, your property and/or business networks use MAC addresses to communicate internally. This is sometimes superseded by IP communications, but you’re relatively depending upon MAC addresses when communicating from the Ethernet layer. It may not be the case, as technological advances are earning MAC-based communication look silly.

For some internet service providers (ISPs), MAC addresses present an incredibly easy way to authenticate computers to provide them access to the net. These ISPs don’t require fancy modems, but do require that your particular computer’s network card (or your router) have a very certain MAC address to gain access to the internet. This was the truth with an ISP I used two years ago, plus it tied a static IP permanently to my computer’s MAC address. There are some disadvantages to using a static IP if you’re a house user, however it works very harmoniously when you host four websites and don’t need to reconfigure everything whenever your IP changes.

In short, MAC addresses are chiefly used by two things: internal network communication and external network authentication (on some ISPs).

3: Can I Change My MAC Address?

Although it really isn’t necessary - generally - to change your MAC address, most advanced network cards and routers have this feature. Their default MAC addresses, however, are often inscribed on them.

In Windows 7, the whole process of changing your MAC address is fairly easy:

  • Click on your “Start” menu after which click on “Network.”

  • Click “Network and Sharing Center” near the top of the window.

  • Click “Change adapter settings” about the left-hand side.

  • Right-click on the network adapter you’d love to change the MAC address of and click “Properties.”

  • Click the “Configure…” button.

  • Click the “Advanced” tab.

  • Select “Network Address.”

A text box will show up on the right-hand side in the dialog, labeled “Value.” Select the radio button close to it and type in that one thing. When you select “Not Present,” you revert the significance to the default manufacturer-defined address.

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