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What is an IP Address and MAC Address?

An IP (Internet Protocol) Address is basically how your computer or device is identified on the internet. Any computer or device that is connected to the internet has to be assigned a logical IP Address whether it’s from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or your local router’s DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server.

You can think of an IP Address like a vehicle’s license plate. Every vehicle driving on the road (legally) has a license plate which is registered to the local DMV. The license plate is kind of like the car’s identification card, which allows someone (usually a cop) to run the plate and find out all kinds of information about the owner of the vehicle in which the license plate is registered to. An IP Address works the same way. Every computer surfing the web has to have some type of identifying IP Address, whether it be an IP assigned to the actual computer, the router the computer is connected to, or the proxy server the computer is connecting with. This address is what identifies a computer on the web as a license plate is what identifies a vehicle on the road.

A MAC (Media Access Control) Address on the other hand is the physical address of the NIC (Network Interface Cards) in your computer (something like a serial number). On broadcast networks, such as Ethernet, the MAC address uniquely identifies each node (workstation/computer) for specific packet delivery. If you enjoy analogies, you can kind of compare the a NIC’s MAC address to a vehicle’s VIN number. The MAC identifies the physical networking hardware as a vehicle’s VIN identifies a specific vehicle.

The reason I picked a vehicle for my analogies is to help readers understand that a dynamic IP Address can change just like a vehicle’s license plate number can be changed. But a MAC Address (under most circumstances) cannot be changed just like a vehicle’s VIN cannot be changed.

A static IP Address however is an IP address that you keep constant and never changes (and usually have to pay a fee for). Having a static IP is useful for those who run servers or any type of equipment where you need for the IP address to always stay the same.

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