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Difference Between MAC and IP Address

Every computer or device on the internet has been assigned two types of addresses: a MAC address and an IP address. MAC address is a physical address that recognizes the address of your individual device while an IP address is essentially the address for the gateway that identifies the device globally. A data packet requires both the addresses to get from source to its destination. Both addresses are used to uniquely identify a machine or device on the internet. Let’s take a look at the two types of addresses in detail.

IP Address

The IP, short for Internet Protocol, is the fundamental building block for all control and data exchanges across and within the internet. It is a set of standards for addressing and routing data on the internet. Without IP, the internet ceases to exist. An IP address is basically a long string of numbers assigned to each computer or device connected to the internet. The address identifies each networked computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network. An IP address identifies hardware devices on a network. It holds information related to your location, allowing devices to communicate with each other over a network.

MAC Address

MAC stands for Media Access Control, which is the physical address used to identify each device on a given network. For example, when you request something from the World Wide Web, like a video or a website, your router needs to decide which device to send that data to. These days we have tons of devices connected to the router at the house all the time, including phones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs, and even Chromecast. The router does this by keeping track of the MAC addresses of all the devices connected to it.

Difference between MAC and IP Address


– MAC is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface card (NIC). It is the physical address that uniquely identifies a device on a network. It is used for local identification. An IP address is a unique address used to identify a device on the internet or a local network that’s using the Internet Protocol for communication. IP address is used for global identification. Unlike MAC addresses which are set in stone, IP addresses can be changed. However, you can spoof a MAC address.


– The MAC address operates at the link layer in the protocol whereas the IP address operates at the network layer. For example, when a packet like a video stream is in the network it uses the IP address to find its way through the network. MAC address is linked to the hardware of the network adapter and it is hardwired into your device’s network interface card (NIC).


– The MAC address is a 12 digit hexadecimal number, which is mostly represented by Colon-Hexadecimal notation. They are grouped into six pairs separated by hyphens. The first six digits are used to identify the manufacturer. A MAC address looks like this: 2C:54:91:88:C9:E3. An IP address is a 32-bit number typically displayed in dotted decimal notation as a set of four numbers. Each number can fall in the range of 0 to 255. An IP address looks something like this: 204.132. 40.155.

MAC vs. IP Address: Comparison Chart


In a nutshell, an IP address is like a return address on an envelope that identifies your individual device on a network. So, when you click on a link on a web browser, the website knows where to send whatever the link contains to your computer because your computer sends its IP address. But an IP address can only get as far as the modem in your home. You have tons of devices connected to the routers, mostly wirelessly. Each device on a network has something called a MAC address that identifies which device is which on your local network. 

What is the use of IP address and MAC Address?

An IP address is bound to a network device via software configurations, and it can be changed by network administrators at any time. A MAC address identifies a device globally; it is a device’s unique hardware number. An IP address is a device’s logical address.

Do routers use IP or MAC addresses?

Routers use public IPs and they have several IP interfaces. MAC addresses are only used by some data link layers, such as the Ethernet. The router used the IP address to decide where to send each received packet.

Can 2 devices have the same MAC address?

No two devices on a local network can have the same MAC address because they are physical addresses used to identify each device on a given network. MAC addresses are unique to the network card installed on a device.

Why is a MAC address needed?

A MAC address is a fundamental element of computer networking that is required to make a local Ethernet or WiFi network function. It is tied to a network adapter and is used to deliver the data to the right device on a network.

Is WiFi address the same as MAC address?

MAC addresses are permanent addresses that cannot be changed and are specific to each network adapter or device. They can also be used in non-WiFi environments. However, MAC addressed and Wi-Fi addresses mean the same thing on iPhones.

What is an example of MAC address?

MAC address is a 12 digit hexadecimal number, grouped into six pairs separated by hyphens. It looks like this: 2C:54:91:88:C9:E3.

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  1. I have tried to leave a comment on this blog but every time I try it refreshes the comment or gives an error. Do you think the writer could possibly look into the reason it keeps messing up?

  2. I think one of the most vital difference between a MAC address and IP is that all the NIC of a computer will be assigned the same ip address by a DHcp , but their MAC is always unique and different .

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