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Physical address

(also MAC address, hardware address, ethernet address)

Physical address definition

A physical address, or MAC (media access control) address, is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface controller (NIC) in a device for communication on a network segment. MAC addresses are assigned by device manufacturers and serve as a layer 2 (data link layer) identifier in the OSI networking model. Physical addresses help in delivering data packets to their intended destinations within the local network.

Physical address examples

A MAC address typically follows a format like this: XX:XX:XX:YY:YY:YY. The first half (XX:XX:XX) represents the manufacturer identifier, while the second half (YY:YY:YY) is the device's unique identifier assigned by the manufacturer.

Comparing physical address to IP address

A physical address is different from an IP address. While a MAC address is a device-specific identifier, an IP address is a network-specific identifier that can change based on the network the device is connected to.

Tips for protecting your physical address

  • Enable MAC address filtering on your router to restrict access to your network.
  • Use a VPN to hide your device's IP address and maintain privacy.

Pros and cons of physical addresses


  • Unique identification: MAC addresses uniquely identify devices, ensuring accurate delivery of data packets.
  • Network security: Physical addresses can be used for network security measures, such as MAC address filtering.


  • Limited to local networks: MAC addresses are only useful within local networks because they don't traverse routers.
  • MAC address spoofing: Hackers can spoof MAC addresses to bypass security measures.