What are MAC & IP addresses?

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Type in a website in your browser’s URL bar and you immediately are able to access that particular website’s content. Using a metaphorical situation, let’s understand the uses of both MAC (Media Access Control) & IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. Think of your MAC address to be your NRIC, IP address to be your postal code and webpages to be your street name.  Just as each NRIC holder has a postal code & street name, the internet is able to deliver web content that you requested back to your device, with the use of MAC & IP addresses.

MAC Address

A MAC address is a hardware address assigned to each individual device by the manufacturer, for Ethernet & WiFi cards. Your device is likely to have two MAC addresses, typically uniquely tied to your computer’s NIC (Network Interface Card). MAC addresses are mostly used only to direct packets of data from device to device on a local network. Therefore, they work between your device and router.

Identifying a MAC address of a particular device may not seem important to the common user. However, MAC addresses can help to identify which devices are connected on your network. So if you’re stealing WiFi from your neighbours, just a heads up that they will be able to see an unknown MAC address connected to their network!

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IP Address

An IP address on the other hand, is assigned to every device by the network that uses the internet for communication. Unlike your MAC address which is fixed (unless you change your NIC), your IP address can change with a change in the network. It is responsible for connecting you with your a private or public network through network interface. Therefore, IP addresses work between your device and the internet.

There are two types of address assignment – static and dynamic addresses. Static IPs are manually assigned by an administrator or ISP (Internet Service Provider) and do not change. Dynamic IPs are addressed dynamically on LANs and broadband networks and changes constantly.

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