Did you know that each piece of hardware connected to your home network has its own identity? Just as each device is assigned its own IP address to communicate with the Internet and local network, each piece of hardware also has its own unique network identifier. This is known as a MAC address. MAC stands for Media Access Control, and the address is vital to your Ethernet based network.
At certain times you may need to provide your MAC address to a network operator during configuration, to successfully complete a new network installation, to filter certain devices on your network, or simply figure out which device is which on your local network.
Finding your MAC address is an easy task, and we’ll show you exactly how to do it.
What Is a MAC Address?
MAC addresses essentially help us connect to most local networks we encounter. Each network adapter is assigned a unique MAC address, usually by the Network Interface Controller (NIC) manufacturer.
Data is transmitted across your network in packets. Each packet contains a “sent from” and “going to” MAC address. When your network adapter receives the data packet, it immediately compares the destination address to its own address. If they match, the data packet is processed. Otherwise, it is discarded.
Now, you might ask how this works with packet routing. There is no direct routing based upon a MAC address. Rather, routing is taken care of by the Internet Protocol (IP) address. Your router receives all the packets for its own MAC address, but with a different target IP address. The router then checks for access to the destination IP address and, if available, delivers the data packet.
Using the Command Prompt
The quickest and easiest method for finding your MAC address is using the Command Prompt.
Open the Command Prompt by pressing Windows key + R, typing CMD, and hitting Enter. Windows 10 users can choose to right click the Start Menu and select Command Prompt from the context menu. Type ipconfig /all and press Enter. The Command Prompt will now display the network information for your current device.
If you have multiple network connections installed on the same machine, you’ll note the same MAC address is listed for each adapter. This is because the MAC address is usually assigned to the network interface controller (NIC) by the manufacturer, and is stored in the adapter’s firmware. We are looking for the Physical Address, as highlighted below.
There is another command you can use to find your MAC address. Once the Command Prompt is open, type getmac and press Enter. It should return a list of all available MAC addresses. If you only have one Physical Address installed on your system, that MAC address is all the command will return.
I have a couple of virtual machines installed on my computer and the getmac command returns a MAC address for each of those network adapters, be they virtual or not.
Using Network Connection Settings
You’ll also be able to find the MAC address by looking at your network adapter properties, found in the Network Connections folder. Open the Start Menu and search for network connections. Select View network connections. It should be top of the list.
If you’d like to manually navigate to this location, head to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network Connections.
The folder should display your installed network adapters. Right-click your network connection, select Status, followed by Details, as highlighted below. This will open a new window containing your network connection details. The value for the Physical Address is your MAC address.
Changing Your MAC Address
Your network adapter should let you set a custom MAC address, though support for this type of customization can vary between manufacturers.
Open the Start Menu and search for device manager. Locate Network adapters, and select the adapter you’d like to modify. Right click and select Properties, followed by the Advanced tab. My adapter doesn’t offer support for a custom MAC address, but if yours does, Network Address should be listed in the Property list. The editable value will be displayed to the right.
MAC addresses are not completely randomly generated. The first half of a MAC address is assigned by the IEEE standards specification for an individual manufacturer, with the second half acting as an individual identifier to ensure no two NICs share an address. However, for home networking practices you should be able to generate and use a twelve hexadecimal character string, using this MAC Address Generator.
However, it is unlikely the average user will need to alter their MAC address throughout the lifetime of their device, and those that need to will understand and have a legitimate reason to do so.
You’ve Found Your MAC Address
Now you’ve found it on one computer, you’ll be able to find it on almost any other when required. I would strongly advise leaving your MAC address alone, unless you do have a specific reason to alter it from the manufacturer assigned hexadecimal value, and if you have to do so, please proceed with caution.
Did you ever have to change your MAC Address? Do you have any MAC Address Lookup tips for your fellow readers? Please share in the comments!