Difference between IP Address and MAC Address

Both MAC Address and IP Address are used to identify a computer on a network or on the Internet. MAC address is provided by NIC Card's manufacturer and gives the physical address of a computer. IP address is provided by the Internet Service Provider and is called the logical address of a computer connected on a network.

Read through this article to find out more about IP address and MAC address and how they are different from each other.

What is an IP Address?

Every unique instance linked to any computer communication network employing the TCP/IP communication protocols is given an IP address.

When network nodes connect to a network, the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server allocates IP addresses. DHCP assigns IP addresses from a pool of available addresses that are part of the addressing system as a whole.

Even though DHCP only offers dynamic addresses, many machines reserve static IP addresses given to a single entity and cannot be used again.

There are two sorts of IP addresses −

  • Classful IP addressing is a legacy technique that separates IP address pools into five categories: A, B, C, D, and E.

  • The prefixes in classless IP addressing can be any length.

IP addresses are generally represented by a 32-bit unsigned binary value. It is represented in a dotted decimal format. For example, "" is a valid IP address.

What is a MAC Address?

A MAC (Media Access Control) address is a network address that uniquely identifies an Ethernet or network device. It distinguishes between distinct network interfaces and is used in various network technologies, including most IEEE 802 networks, such as Ethernet. MAC addresses appear in the OSI model's Media Access Control Protocol sub-layer.

People sometimes use other terms such as "physical address", "hardware address", and "burned-in address" to signify a MAC address.

Every Network Interface Card (NIC) has a MAC address assigned to the vendor/manufacturer. MAC addresses are used in almost all network types, but they are permanent and cannot be modified, unlike IP addresses. The IEEE specifications are used to create a MAC address.

A MAC address is an 8-byte hexadecimal address. It's usually six sets of two digits or characters, separated by colons. For example, "50:7B:9D:56:69:21" would be a valid MAC address. Many network card and other hardware manufacturers use a unique sequence at the beginning of their products' MAC addresses.

Difference between IP Address and MAC Address

The following table highlights the major differences between MAC Address and IP Address.

KeyMAC AddressIP Address
MAC is the abbreviation for Media Access Control. The MAC address ensures that the computer's physical address is unique.
IP Address stands for Internet Protocol Address. An IP address is a computer's logical address used to identify computers linked to a network uniquely.
MAC address is a 6-bytes hexadecimal address.
IP address is a 4-bytes (IPv4) or 6-bytes(IPv6) address.
Address retrieval
The MAC address of a device can be figured out using ARP Protocol.
The IP address of a device is figured out using RARP protocol.
NIC's Card Manufacturer provides the MAC Address.
Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides the IP Address.
Address Type
MAC Address is a physical address.
IP Address is a logical address.


To conclude, a MAC address is a physical address, whereas an IP address is a logical address. An IP address is a unique address that identifies a connected device on a local network or the Internet. The MAC address ensures that the computer's physical address is unique.

Updated on: 22-Aug-2022

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