Simple Questions: What is the MAC Address & How to Change it in Windows?

networkingMAC addresses are another key part of computer networking. Much like IP addresses, which we have discussed in a previous article, MAC addresses might be a confusing concept for someone without a technical background. Nevertheless, I will share enough information about MAC addresses so that you can understand what they are and why we use them. Read on to get into more detail and also learn how to change the MAC address in Windows, when you need to.

What is the MAC Address and How Does It Work?

I’ve talked in aprevious article about IP addresses and what they are, how they work and how to change the IP address of a Windows device. A basic thing that you need to understand about computer networking, is that it has two main components: a software component and a hardware one.

Since the IP addresses are based on a networking protocol (TCP/IP), they are an important part of the software component. But for our computers and devices to communicate correctly with each other, there’s also a hardware component that needs to work together with the software.

This is where the MAC address comes in. The hardware networking component inside your computer or device is called a network adapter, or network interface card (NIC). This is an electronic circuit card that enables your computer or device to connect to a network and use it to communicate with other network devices.

Before an IP address is assigned to a network adapter, the adapter needs a way to identify itself on the network. This is done through the MAC address. This type of address is also called a networking hardware address, or physical address. A MAC address is given to any network adapter at the moment of its manufacturing and it is unique for each networking device.
Unlike IP addresses, MAC addresses are a string of six groups of two digits or characters which are separated by colons or dashes. A regular MAC address might very well look like this: 10-C0-A3-29-FB-C7 or 94-DE-80-0B-94-31.

How to Change the MAC Address in Windows 7 & Windows 8.1

Although a MAC address is a permanent feature of the network adapter, there are cases when you might need to change it. For example, you might want to change it for privacy when connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, or maybe your Internet Service Provider has its service linked to specific MAC addresses.

Fortunately, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 offer an easy way of modifying the MAC address.

First, you need to open the Network and Sharing Center window. If you don't know how to do this, read this article to learn more: What is the Network and Sharing Center in Windows?.

Once the Network and Sharing Center opens, you can see information about your active network connections, set up new connections, change network adapter settings or troubleshoot problems.

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Next, click or tap the "Change adapter settings" link on the left hand side of the window.

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You can now see all of the network interfaces available on your computer or device, including virtual connections or Bluetooth network devices.

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Press and hold or right click the network adapter for which you want to change the MAC address and press Properties.

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The Properties window gives you information about the networking protocols used by the current network connection and allows you to install, uninstall or modify them. Additionally, it gives you the option to configure advanced settings of the network adapter. To do so, click or tap the Configure button.

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Then, click or tap the Advanced tab and select the Network Address property from the Property list.

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Important: In private or corporate networks, this option might not be available to you, as a security restriction set by the network administrator. Keep in mind that modifying the MAC address should always be confirmed with the network administrator in this case.

Next, type in the new MAC address in the Value field and click or tap the OK button. MAC addresses have to be entered without dashes or colons. For instance, if you want to change your MAC address to 4A:2B:3C:6D:8E:9F, make sure that you type 4A2B3C6D8E9F.

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To apply the changes, either reboot your computer or device, or disable and re-enable the network adapter from Windows.

Conclusion

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a MAC address is and how to can change it, you should be able to configure the network settings of your Windows devices quite easily.

We'd like to know if you had any problems while changing your MAC address. Share them with us and other readers, using the comments form below and we'll do our best to help.