MAC-address

What is a MAC Address? And Where do I Find Mine?

Last edited: May 28, 2020
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MAC-addresses: an overview

A MAC address is a unique identification number, which is  the network module in your device, with which you can connect to the Internet. This makes your device recognisable to other devices in your network, so that the data traffic between those devices is managed properly.

  • The MAC address is an identifier for other devices in the neighbourhood. This allows a router, for example, to know where to send the data back to.
  • A device can have multiple MAC addresses, e.g. one for your wifi connection and one for your ethernet connection.
  • Your MAC address can be spoofed. This means that you change the address. This is perfectly legal, but hackers sometimes use this tactic so that criminal activities cannot be traced back to them.
  • Your IP address is more important for your privacy than your MAC address, because the latter is usually not shared with websites. Hiding your IP address, for example with a VPN, has a much greater effect on your privacy than hiding your MAC address.

Do you want to know everything about MAC addresses? Read our full article below.

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 NIC (Network Interface Controller) by the manufacturer. This NIC, also called network card, ensures that your computer can connect to a network.

A MAC address is sometimes also called the hardware address or the physical address of a device. The address is required for devices in a network to communicate with each other. It also ensures that your router can send information to the correct device within the network.

What is the Function of a MAC Address

MAC addressMAC IDs are 48-bit codes, which means they consist of a series of twelve digits and letters. Every address has a unique combination. This makes it possible to identify a device. The internet card or adapter of your device broadcasts this 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 address is not just unique to every device, but also to every internet connection. So, you have a different address for your ethernet connection than for your Wi-Fi connection. Even when you use a VPN, you’ll get a new 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 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 address can be found after “Physical Address”.

MAC addresses

Where Can I Find My MAC Address?

Finding your address isn’t very complicated, although it may seem like it is. Firstly, you can often find the 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 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 address on Windows, Android and iOS.

Your MAC address on Windows

Follow the steps below to find your 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 address in the following way:

  1. Click on the connection logo in your taskbar.MAC address Windows 10
  2. Click on “Network & Internet Settings“.
  3. A new window will appear. Click “Change connection properties“.MAC address Windows 10
  4. You’ll find the address right behind “Physical address (MAC)” under “Properties“.MAC address Windows 10

Note: If you want to see all the different addresses on your device you can click “View your network properties” instead of “”change connection properties” under status in step 3.

For all Windows systems you can also find your MAC address by following these steps:

  1. Press your Windows key and “r” at the same time. The following window will appear:MAC address Windows
  2. Fill in “cmd” and press OK.
  3. 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.MAC address Windows
  4. You’ll see an overview of all your internet connections. The numbers and letters that appear behind Physical Address make up your MAC adress.MAC address Windows

Your MAC address on MacOS

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the top left menu bar and go to “System Preferences“. Then, click on “Network“.
  2. In the Network menu, select your internet connection and click on “Advanced“:
  3. The address is specified under the “Hardware” tab, as you can see below.|

Your MAC address on Android

If you want to find your address on Android, you can follow these steps:

  1. Go to “Settings” and press “About device“.MAC-address Android
  2. Tap “Status“.MAC-address Android
  3. You’ll find your MAC address beneath “Wi-Fi MAC address“.MAC-address Android

Your MAC address on iOS

You can find out what your address is on iPhone by following these steps:

  1.  Go to your settings and click “General“.MAC address iPhone
  2.  Now click “About“.MAC address iPhone
  3. Here you can find the address after “Wi-Fi Address“.MAC address iPhone

Spoofing Your Address

HackerIt’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 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 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 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 ID to share licenses with large groups of people.

Stop trackers

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 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 MAC and IP Addresses?

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 ID, 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.

What is a MAC address - Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a quick answer to one of your questions? Take a look at our frequently asked questions below, and maybe your problem will be solved in no time.

A MAC address is the unique identifier of a network adapter. This the part of your device that allows you to connect to the Internet. The MAC address makes your device recognizable to other devices in a network. Through the MAC address, a router knows to which device it has to send certain data, for example.

The IP address is assigned by your router, and therefore does not belong to a specific device. IP addresses are included when you make a request on a website. For example, if you click on a link, the website will know what information needs to be sent back where. MAC addresses are only relevant for devices within your own network. They are, therefore, hardly ever transferred to sites on the Internet.

Spoofing is changing your MAC address yourself. This is not illegal, but some people do this to be completely unrecognizable; hackers for example. For normal users, it may be useful to change a MAC address if they want to use a license with several people at the same time, or to browse completely anonymously.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. Since 2019 she is VPNoverview.com's cybersecurity news coordinator.

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  1. Really great tips, often people look past the MAC address. Hiding your IP is great with something like NordVPN, yet if you want to be EXTREMELY anonymous, then sometimes MAC address, as you wrote, can lead to you. Don’t know if going to these extremes is useful for everyday browsing, but if it eases someone’s mind then why not.

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