Every device has a MAC address, but not everyone knows what this is. This MAC has nothing to do with Apple. In this case MAC stands for Media Access Control. It’s a unique address that’s given to a device by the manufacturer. A MAC address is sometimes also called the hardware address or the physical address of a device. It identifies the network adapter on your PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device. A network adapter or network card ensures that your computer can connect to a network. The MAC address is required for devices in a network to communicate with each other. It also ensures your router can send information to the correct device within the network.
What is the Function of a MAC Address
MAC addresses are 48-bit codes, which means they consist of a series of twelve digits and letters. Every MAC address has a unique combination. This makes it possible to identify a device. The internet card or adapter of your device broadcasts this MAC address to make itself known to devices in its surroundings. This way, the router knows where to send information.
To illustrate: if you connect multiple devices to a router at home, all devices have the same IP address, but each device has its own MAC address. Because of this, information can be sent to the correct device within a network. This is very useful and even crucial: it ensures that your search results don’t end up on your roommate’s laptop.
Multiple MAC Addresses on One Device
One device can have multiple MAC addresses. This is because the MAC address is not just unique to every device, but also to every internet connection. So you have a different MAC address for your ethernet connection than for your Wi-Fi connection. Even when you use a VPN, you’ll get a new MAC address for that internet connection. To sum up, although you probably only use one MAC address on most of your devices, there can be many more.
Below you can see what it looks like when your device has multiple MAC addresses. First, there’s the MAC address of the Ethernet connection, followed by the data of the Wi-Fi connection currently in use. The last two blocks show information about VPN connections with NordVPN and Surfshark that were used on this PC. In all of these cases, the MAC address can be found after “Physical Address”.
Where Can I Find My MAC Address?
Finding your MAC address isn’t very complicated, although it may seem like it is. Firstly, you can often find the MAC address on a physical sticker on your device. Usually, there’s only one number there. This might be problematic, as you now know it’s possible to have multiple MAC addresses (because you can also have multiple connections). To see exactly what MAC address your current connection has, you’ll therefore have to go to the settings of your device. Below is a step-by-step plan for finding your MAC address on Windows, Android and iOS.
Your MAC address on Windows
Follow the steps below to find your MAC address on a Windows device. The first explanation applies specifically to Windows 10 and the second method also works for earlier versions of the operating system. It’ll work similarly for other systems.
In Windows 10 you can find the MAC address in the following way:
- Click on the connection logo in your taskbar.
- Click on “Network & Internet Settings“.
- A new window will appear. Click “Change connection properties“.
- You’ll find your MAC address right behind “Physical address (MAC)” under “Properties“.
Note: If you want to see all the different MAC addresses on your device you can click “View your network properties” instead of “”change connection properties” under status in step 3.
For all Window systems you can also find your MAC address by following these steps:
- Press your Windows key and “r” at the same time. The following window will appear:
- Fill in “cmd” and press OK.
- Type in “getmac /v /fo list” in the window that appears. Make sure to include the spaces, as it won’t work without them. Once you’ve typed it in, press enter.
- You’ll see an overview of all your internet connections. The numbers and letters that appear behind Physical Address make up your MAC adress.
Your MAC address on Android
If you want to find your MAC address on Android, you can follow these steps:
- Go to “Settings” and press “About device“.
- Tap “Status“.
- You’ll find your MAC address beneath “Wi-Fi MAC address“.
Your MAC address on iOS
You can find out what your MAC address is on iPhone by following these steps:
- Go to your settings and click “General“.
- Now click “About“.
- Here you can find your MAC address after “Wi-Fi Address“.
Spoofing Your Mac Address
It’s possible to change your MAC address into something less identifiable. This is called “spoofing.” Spoofing in and of itself isn’t illegal. However, there are people who change their MAC address in order to take part in illegal activities anonymously. Hackers do this, for example, so the things they do online can’t be traced back to them. Regular internet users may want to change their MAC address to use a license with several people at the same time or to be able to browse anonymously.
Sharing a Licence
Some internet providers and software companies keep track of the number of devices using their service by looking at their MAC addresses. This allows them to limit the number of people who can use one subscription. Some people change their MAC address intentionally to access a service without reaching this limit. However, this goes against the rules of the service. In essence, it’s fraud and therefore it’s illegal. We don’t recommend spoofing your MAC address to share licenses with large groups of people.
One of the main reasons for most people to hide their MAC address is privacy. In this digital world, many companies are eager to get their hands on your online data. The more they know about users, the more money they can charge for targeted ads, for example. Although your identity may not be linked directly to your MAC address, all your browsing behavior can be connected to each other. Websites and other parties can use this information to build a detailed profile about you. If you want to prevent this, you may need to spoof your MAC address. This way, you can remain fairly anonymous while browsing. Luckily, most of the time your MAC address usually isn’t communicated to websites. Most of the time websites can only see your IP address. Many people change their IP address, for example by using a VPN.
What is the Difference Between an IP Address and a MAC Address?
Many people often wonder what the difference between an IP address and a MAC address is. The two may seem very similar, but they aren’t. An IP address is assigned by the router and is used every time you request something from a website. Because of your IP, the website knows where to send their information. The IP address could be seen as the address of a router’s network. All devices that access the internet via that router have the same IP address.
Your MAC address differs per device. Because of your MAC, the router knows which device to send the information to. This way you can be on the same internet connection, but not receive each other’s searches. That’s a good thing too: without a MAC, using the same internet connection as family, housemates, or even strangers in Starbucks could cause pretty embarrassing situations.