What Is MAC Address?

A MAC address, or media access control address, is a unique identifier assigned to network interfaces for communications on the physical network segment. MAC addresses are most often used as the hardware address in IEEE 802 networks. This can be compared with an IP address which is software-based and therefore less reliable since it can change if the device reboots. The MAC layer provides addressing and other functions independent of any particular lower layer (e.g., Ethernet) or higher layer (e.g., TCP/IP).

MAC addresses are assigned by either the manufacturer of a network interface card or by a user who assigns themselves an arbitrary but unique ID within each organization’s intranet range from 1 to 1000000-1000000000 where they are available.

MAC addresses are most often assigned by the manufacturer or manually in a local network, and they may be globally unique (such as burned into an EEPROM) or locally significant only within a subnetwork (often depending on the settings of a DHCP server which is the address of your router). For example, each OUI is administered by IEEE to ensure uniqueness across all manufacturers worldwide. These addresses are usually hardwired into hardware because they must remain constant over long periods; for this reason, there is a small number of variable bits in a MAC address.

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