MAC Address: What is it?

Own a mac? Well for many first time Mac users, the questions can be many. Mac does work differently to Windows and it could take a while before you get the drift. However, while the learning curve is around a day in itself, that is only for your normal use. What if you encounter a bug or find something that isn’t working as it should? The one thing thag you would perhaps need to look for at first then is your Mac address.

If you haven’t come across it, the MAC address may be an alien concept to you. It is used in network hardware and provided by manufacturers. It has a great responsibility in running your local network optimally.

 

What is a MAC Address?

The Media Access Control (MAC) address is used for unique identification of computer network adapters. It is a unique binary code also known as the physical address or the hardware address. The manufacturer embeds the number in the network adapter hardware while they are produced in the factory. It can also be ingrained in the firmware and cannot be manipulated.

MAC address is utilized by different networks like Wifi, Ethernet and even Bluetooth.

 

Here below in the picture we can see the Mac address on a PC Screen

mac address pc

 

And here we can see the MAC address as it is displayed on an Apple iMac.

mac address iMac

What is MAC Address Used for?

Identification: MAC addresses are used to identify network adapters uniquely. Your Wifi access points will check the MAC address of a device along with the pass code before granting it permission to join.

Packet Transfer: MAC addresses are responsible for the proper operation of your local Ethernet. It also facilitates transfer of packets in the local network between one MAC address to another. If the MAC addresses of the adapter and destination doesn’t match, the process is terminated.

Network switches also keep records of MAC address encountered at the ports and forwards packets based on them.

TCP/IP: TCP/IP networks also employ both IP address and MAC address to transfer packets. MAC address being on Layer 2 of the OSI model supports Internet Protocol working at Layer 3. Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is used to facilitate the conversion between IP and MAC address.

But it has to be remembered that there is no routing through MAC addresses.

DHCP: DHCP servers also take help of the MAC addresses to identify a device and render some of them with a static IP address. It is also done with the help of ARP.