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An IP address is not the only thing important when it comes to the network interface and communication. Still, another component called MAC address is associated with physical routers and network adapters. Some also called this the hardware address of a system. When the system components are being manufactured, the company assigns a unique number to the device to be identified at any point in time. This address is also responsible for establishing communication between two desktop-based computers. The Media Access Control address works as a data link layer. The hardware component that carries this address is stored in the network card.
These addresses or identifiers are unique because they can be recognized in a network that combines many devices. If it is easy to identify and establish contact, then communication between two systems becomes more stable and reliable in any situation. This article will be different aspects of MAC addresses and see how we can change it across different platforms.
What is a MAC Address?
In technical terms, a MAC address is defined as a long address consisting of 48 bits, and it follows a hexadecimal format. This format uses base-16 to identify individual numbers of the address. By implementing this method, there is no possibility of having two same MAC addresses because the number of combinations present in forming a 12-digit address is usually in hundreds of trillions. This address is the sublayer of Data-link, can actively participate in the network connections of a device. The standard followed to formulate this address is based on the IEEE authority committee, and they also are responsible for assigning a unique MAC prefix to every registered vendor.
How to change MAC address in Windows 10
As you might know, changing the MAC address in an operating system may have a lot of reasons and probably your here because of one of those reasons.
Let's go through some of the reasons for changing the MAC address: blocked by the firewall, network disruption, installing some software’s license which pertains to MAC address etc.
In order to change the MAC address in Windows 10, follow the steps below:
- Open Windows 10 settings and click on Network & Internet
- In the Status section select Change adapter options.
- In Network Connections page, right click on your wanted interface’s icon and select Properties.
- Click on Configure
- At released page select Advanced tab and in Property section select Locally Administered Address, then select the Value radio button and enter new MAC address in the related text box. Then click on OK
- Disable the network interface and enable it again.
- Open CMD and enter the command below
You will see the new MAC address which was set on your interface.
Format & Notation of a MAC Address
MAC addresses usually form the same format and notation to help networks interact instantly. The address consists of 12 digits, and while assigning the numbers of prefixes, we follow Colon-Hexadecimal notation. In any MAC address, the first six digits represent the organization that manufactured the device, and it is called OUI. The left side of the address is given for the manufacturer to assign an OUI number, and the right-hand side of the address is for representing Network Interface Controller. An organization identifier is mainly to understand the origins of the device, and it helps us understand its compatibility. Some of the well known IT companies have the following OUIs:
3C:D9:2B- Hewlett Packard
00:9A:CD- Huawei Technologies.
Some other notations also include period and hyphen separated, but it is important to align them with the operating system. In the case of Linux, it follows colon notation, and Cisco systems use period notation.
Types of MAC Addresses
Even in-network devices' unique identifiers, there are multiple categories, and each has its specific functions and functionality. Three main types of MAC addresses can be attached to a network: Unicast, Multicast, and Broadcast.
A unicast MAC address represents multiple NIC ports present in the network or aimed at only a specific NIC. For the network controller, this is an in-built component and helps only a certain number of ports. When one single port is given a MAC address and transmits the frame to another single destination device, then that type of MAC address is called unicast.
In the case of a unicast MAC address, we have seen that the packets are transmitted on an Ethernet network to only fixed receivers. Still, when we come to multicast, the members can be changed from time to time. As they are changing, we need to deploy multiple MAC addresses at the data layer, represented in the most significant octet.
In a way, we can say that broadcast is an extension of multicast MAC address because the frames reach every computer that is associated with that LAN segment. That is why the destination address has all bits as one. The devices that involve broadcast MAC addresses plan to send data to every receiver present in the network.
Why should you change your MAC address?
- Internet service providers use MAC addresses to identify and authenticate, so if your network card is damaged or not working for an extended period, you have to register again with your ISP. Instead of going through such a tedious process, you can always change your MAC address to your old adapter.
- Gaining access from a new computer to your old network is difficult if the MAC address is outside the limits. By changing your MAC address, you can instantly gain access from another machine. Here, the major note point is that no two machines can have the same MAC address.
- Privacy is something everyone wants, and if you do not take proper precautions, a hacker can exploit your MAC address that is visible on the local Ethernet network. It also doesn't require any advanced software or tools. Hackers can easily extract and exploit within a couple of minutes. To avoid hackers and increase privacy for your machine, you should change your MAC address and stop using public WiFi networks.
- If your MAC address is out in public, anyone can access it and impersonate your online identity. It majorly happens when your original machine goes offline, and you won't have a clue if something wrong is happening or not.
- By changing the MAC address, you also receive a new IP address from the DHCP server. The lease provided by this server can last for many days, so you can use the same IP every time you access the Internet.
How to Find your MAC Address?
Identification comes before customization, so you need to know where to find your MAC address. Now, this changes from one operating system to another, so keep up and follow the steps in the same order.
The first step to finding your MAC address is to open the command prompt, and you do that by entering "cmd" in the search bar of your windows start button. Once you confirm the program after entering the key, you will see a black console window. In this window, you can type commands to retrieve addresses. We can get our MAC address by using the command "getmac" and "physical address", and you need to make a note of them to change the configurations in the default settings.
For Mac Computer
The process in a Mac computer involves the Terminal app. You can find this application in the utilities or press- command + shift + U.
Once the terminal opens, you have to enter the command "networksetup –listallhardwareports", and you will be able to report the full system addresses. The code assigned to Ethernet will be your MAC address. In the case of iPhones, it is highlighted in the WiFi settings.
How to Change MAC Address?
When it comes to changing MAC addresses, it can be done in two ways. The first method is to use network settings located in the control panel, and the second is done using a registry.
Using Network Settings
When you access your control panel, you will see a section called "Network and Internet", so if you click on that, you will see a submenu highlighting some basic information about your network. You should then select "Change adapter settings" to view the details regarding the network card. Once you have the network card window opened up, you should select your desired network card that you want to configure. Select properties, and you will see many options under the settings. Click on "Configure" to open a window with five tabs. Once you have the tabs open, select the advanced option to access Locally Administered Address (LAA). If you change your selection from the "Not Present" option to "Value", you will be allowed to enter any 12 character strings. Click OK, and your settings will automatically be updated.
Windows users can use this alternative method to change their MAC address by using a registry editor. Once the editor is launched, you have to scroll down till you find the following entry:
In this entry, you will observe three folders having consecutive numbers, and out of these, one will match with your network card. Select that particular folder and find the NetworkAddress entry. Once you have the entry, right-click on the folder and select the "Change" function. You can then enter your desired MAC address.
Computer networking relies on MAC addresses on several occasions, and it is an important element to establish machine-to-machine connections. These addresses also help in switching networks by only forwarding packets to a specific number of ports. Wireless access points also make use of MAC addresses to give access to known devices within the network. In some other use-cases, MAC addresses help DHCP servers to assign fixed IP to some devices. Even though many applications involve this important networking element, one should also consider the risks associated and take proper precautions. Changing your MAC address is the first step in doing it.