The MAC (media access controller) address is a unique identifier for the networking hardware on your device. It usually works, but you will need to adjust it occasionally. While Apple and Microsoft make it difficult to change your MAC address, it is possible.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO CHANGE IT?
This setting has no effect on your pace or efficiency. It’s similar to your hardware’s phone number. You’ll confuse your network if you adapt it to an existing number.
The most popular reason for changing your MAC address is that it is locked to an old address by another user. It’s possible that your router or other piece of hardware can only accept or send connections to a specific MAC address. When I tried to connect to my office machine, I ran into this problem. I wanted to link to the network with a different laptop because the IT support desk was locked. I was able to connect to the network after changing the MAC address of my new laptop to that of my old laptop.
Another reason to update your MAC address is if your wifi network restricts the amount of time or connections you can make. You shouldn’t use this to get around network time limits, but you can switch your link time to a different MAC address. On your phone, for example, you can sign up for a few hours of Wi-Fi. Then you’ll want to link your laptop to the internet. Changing the MAC address of your laptop to the MAC address of your tablet instead of paying for another connection can save you money.
Finally, someone can track you through your MAC address. You might want to change it each time you connect to a network or just use a random address.
HOW TO FIND A MAC ADDRESS ON A PC
If you’re on a PC, the easiest way is through the command prompt. Type
and you’ll see all your network interfaces and the physical address. That’s the MAC address.
You can also find it by going to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network Connections. Then right-click on the network adapter and pick Status > Details. Again, the physical address is the MAC address.
HOW TO FIND A MAC ADDRESS ON A MAC
Keep down the choice key when clicking on the wifi icon in the menu bar if you’re on a wireless network. It will tell you the name of the interface as well as the address. Your MAC address is the address. If you’re using Ethernet or another form of link, go to Network System Preferences.
Select the interface you’re checking, then go to Advanced->Hardware. At the top is the MAC address.
You can also type
in terminal, and that will tell you the MAC address of all your interfaces.
THE EASY WAY TO CHANGE THIS ON A MAC
The best program I’ve found for this on the Mac is WifiSpoof. It costs $9.99, but you can try it for free for two weeks. It not only allows you to change the address quickly, but it can also be used as a menu bar icon. It has the ability to change the MAC address each time it is used. This is the app to use if you’re worried about being tracked.
If all you want is a simple way to change the address, Mac MACSpoof does this for a $4.99 optional purchase. The interface isn’t as slick and the app requires an additional “helper” app to install.
THE EASY WAY TO CHANGE THIS ON A PC
Just like on a Mac, a third-party software makes this easy for a PC. For example, Technitium MAC Address Changer is a free program that does this for you.
What I like about this app is that it allows you to choose a random MAC address if all you want to do is change it for testing purposes. It also allows you to see which addresses are currently involved.
NoVirusThanks’s MAC Address Changer is another free program. It has fewer options, but it is easier to use than Technitium’s version.
THE DIRECT WAY TO CHANGE THIS ON A MAC
If you feel comfortable in the OS X terminal type the command
sudo ifconfig en0 xx:xx:xx:xx:xx
Replacing the XX with the number of the new MAC address.
THE DIRECT WAY TO CHANGE THIS ON A PC
This method, like the direct method on a Mac, works without the use of third-party tools. Navigate to Device Manager. Then, using the disclosure triangle, locate the adapter you want to replace. Note that each form of adapter has its own MAC address.
When you’ve found your adapter, go to Properties and then Advanced.
The Network Address Property will be visible.
Adjust the value in the Value: box to whatever you want.
REMEMBER TO CHANGE IT BACK
Regardless of which choice you chose, remember to change the MAC address back when you’re done. If you don’t, you can experience issues on other networks. If you want to use a random MAC address, you can run into problems if someone else is already using it.