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A MAC address is a serial number that ships with every hardware device connected to the internet. It’s the building block of networking because it enables unique identification of a hardware device over a network. This makes sure that the packets are sent to the right place.
Earlier we covered how to change MAC address on Windows. Today, let’s see why you might want to change the MAC address (and how) on your Mac.
What Is a MAC Address?
A Media Access Control address (MAC address) is a serial number used to identify a network adapter uniquely. A computer with multiple network interface cards will have multiple MAC addresses. It is also used for static IP address assignment, MAC address filtering, and unique identification of your device. At some public Wi-Fi spots, the MAC address is used to enforce time limitations as it can be used to identify a device uniquely.
Why You Might Want to Change MAC Address
There are numerous reasons why you might want to change your MAC address.
MAC address filtering lets system administrators specify a list of hardware devices and allows only those to connect to a Wi-Fi network. It’s a good way of keeping unauthorized devices away.
Let’s say that your ISP uses MAC address filtering to authenticate your internet connection. What if the network card on your laptop goes kaput? You’ll no longer be able to access the internet. You can ask your ISP to whitelist the MAC address of your new network card, but it might take a while. A simple way to get your internet working again is to change the MAC address to that of the old network adapter.
A MAC address is broadcast in plain text and can be seen by anybody connected to the same network. Its unique nature means that anyone with a few tools could use it to track your location. While this may not be a problem on a home network, it might pose a privacy risk when connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
Also, as the MAC address is visible publicly within the same network, a hacker can impersonate your device and browse the web pretending to be you. If you’re paranoid about your privacy, you might want to consider spoofing your MAC address.
How to Find Your Current MAC Address
If your Mac is connected to a Wi-Fi network, you can view the MAC address from the menu bar itself. Simply hold down the Option key on your Mac’s keyboard and click on the Wi-Fi menu bar icon.
You should be able to see the interface name and the corresponding MAC address. It also provides quick access to Wi-Fi logging, Wi-Fi diagnostics, and also displays information about the current network.
Finding Other MAC Addresses
As discussed earlier, each network card has its own MAC address. If you need to find out the MAC address of Bluetooth PAN or Thunderbolt ports, here’s how to do it.
Open Terminal on your Mac and type the following command:
You should be able to see the MAC addresses of all the network cards on your Mac.
How to Change Your Mac’s MAC Address
Changing a MAC address is a pretty simple process. Be aware that the change will only last until you restart your Mac, at which point the old MAC address will be in use again. You can always run the commands below to change your MAC whenever you want.
You can have your Mac generate a random MAC address, or you can input a MAC address you already know. If you’ve replaced your network adapter and are unable to connect to the internet, you should manually input the old MAC address. If you’re spoofing your MAC address for enhanced privacy, you should generate a random one.
Before we begin, make sure to disconnect from any Wi-Fi networks. To do so, hold the Option key and click on the Wi-Fi menu bar icon. Now click on Disconnect from “Network Name”
To generate a random MAC address, open Terminal and enter the following command:
openssl rand -hex 6 | sed 's/\(..\)/\1:/g; s/.$//'
This will generate a random hex number that you can use as your MAC address. Select this number and copy it. If you want to use an existing MAC address, you should skip this step.
Next, enter the following command:
sudo ifconfig en0 ether MAC
Here, replace “MAC” with any existing MAC address or the above-generated random MAC address.
If your account is password protected, it will prompt you to enter your password. After entering the correct password, your MAC address should be successfully changed. You can now connect to the Wi-Fi network and start browsing with your new MAC address.
Additional Tips and Troubleshooting
Here are some additional tips to help you through the process:
- To verify your MAC address changed successfully, just recheck it using the procedure we discussed at the beginning.
- To restore your original MAC address, just reboot your Mac. It also means there’s no way to change the MAC address on a Mac permanently. Thankfully, most Macs are low-maintenance and won’t need rebooting often.
- If you’re experiencing network issues after changing the MAC address, restart your router and try connecting to it again. If you still experience problems, just reboot your Mac to reset the MAC address.
- It might be a good idea to note down your existing MAC addresses, just in case something goes wrong.
- Make sure to use an administrator account to perform the procedure.
- Some Macs may use “en1” instead of “en0”. To check this, run the
networksetup -listallhardwareportscommand in the Terminal and verify the network adapter for which you want to change the MAC address.
Changing Your MAC Address Is Easy
Using the procedure mentioned above, you can quickly change the MAC address of your Mac. This process seems to work perfectly on macOS Sierra and even on the latest macOS High Sierra developer beta.
Have you changed your Mac’s MAC address? If yes, we’d like to hear why. Also, if you experiencing any troubles, let us know in the comments below.