What is a MAC address?
A Media Access Control (MAC) address is a unique ID assigned to a network device. It is made up of six pairs of characters separated by colons, like this:
Each character can be a digit from “0” to “9” or a letter from “a” to “f.” Sometimes when the address is listed the first zero is left off: The above example would be “1:11:11:11:11:ab.”
Unlike an IP address, a MAC address is attached to the device and will stay the same for the device’s life. These addresses are assigned to wired Ethernet, WiFi, and Bluetooth devices.
While MAC addresses are assigned to devices when they are manufactured, it is possible to “spoof” a MAC address. This can be used by hackers to hide the identity of a device, or legitimately as a way to access a network when a previously approved device has failed. Limiting WiFi access to only approved MAC addresses is sometimes used as a security measure, but it’s by no means foolproof.
How do I find a device’s MAC address?
Most stand-alone networking devices will have a label with the address under “MAC ID,” “Device ID,” or something similar. Routers typically place the sticker on the bottom of the case while network cards will have a sticker on the board itself. You can also get the MAC address of any device connected to your computer or built into a smartphone with a couple commands.
Click on the Start button and select “Run.” Type “cmd” into the text box and click on “OK.” This will bring up a DOS window. Type “getmac” and press Enter. Typing in “ipconfig /all” will also display MAC addresses as well as a lot of other network information.
Open “System Preferences” and select “Network.” You will see several tabs for connected network devices. Click on the tab for the device you want to know about. You will see the MAC address next to “(device name) ID.”
Linux, FreeBSD, and NetBSD
Run “ifconfig -a” from a terminal window. On some systems this may need to be run as root. The MAC address will be listed under “HWaddr.”
Tap on “Settings,” “General,” and finally “About.”
Depending on the version you will need to either tap “Settings” on the main menu or select the “Settings” app from the Application slider. From here tap on “About phone,” scroll down and tap on “Status,” and then scroll down again to see the phone’s MAC address.
Windows Mobile 6 and 7
For WiFi select “Connection Manager” from the Start menu and launch “WiFi.” Tap on “Settings,” “Wlan Settings,” and finally “Connection.”
For Bluetooth select “Settings” from the Start menu. From here tap on “System” followed by “System Information.”
Windows Mobile 5
Select “Settings” from the Start menu. Tap on the “Connections” tab followed by the “Wireless LAN,” and “Advanced” buttons.
From the home screen tap on “Menu,” “Options,” and finally “Status.”
From the launcher select “Device Info” followed by “More Info.” Tap on the “Hardware” tab.