Difference between MAC Address and IP Address

MAC and IP are the addresses which define a device and a network connection in a unique way. A MAC address is a number which the manufacturer assigns to the NIC card. IP address is the number allocated to a network connection. The fundamental difference between MAC address and IP address is that a MAC address uniquely identifies a computer that would like to participate in a network.

In comparison, an IP address specifically identifies a network connection with a device’s interface. Using the comparison chart below, let us research some other discrepancies between MAC address and IP address.

Comparison Chart

Full FormMedia Access Control Address.Internet Protocol Address.
PurposeIt identifies the physical address of a computer on the internet.ARP protocol can retrieve MAC address of a device.
BitsIt is 48 bits (6 bytes) hexadecimal address.IPv4 is a 32-bit (4 bytes) address, and IPv6 is a 128-bits (16 bytes) address.
AddressMAC address is assigned by the manufacturer of NIC card.IP address is assigned by the network administrator or Internet Service Provider.
Retrieve AddressARP protocol can retrieve MAC address of a device.RARP protocol can retrieve IP address of a device.


Definition of Mac Address

The address which uniquely defines a hardware interface is called the MAC Address (Media Access Control). The supplier purchases the MAC address, produces interface hardware and sequentially assigns the MAC addresses to the interface hardware as it is made. MAC address in the Network Interface Card (NIC) ROM is burned. NIC is a hardware interface which the computer uses to become a part of a network.

The MAC address is a hexadecimal address of 48 bits. MM: MM: MM: SS: SS: SS is the format for a MAC address, where MM: MM: MM is the manufacturer’s 3-byte address. In comparison, SS: SS: SS is a serial NIC card number. Every device on a network has unique MAC Address. If you change or remove your computer’s NIC card, your MAC address is changed as well.

The MAC address is used on the OSI / TCP / IP interface data-link layer. ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) is a protocol used for accessing device’s MAC address.

Definition of IP Address

The address that is given to a network connection is called the IP address (Internet Protocol). IP address does not mark a computer on a network uniquely, but specifies a common network connection. The address shall be provided by the network administrator or the Internet Service Provider (ISP).

IP address identifies the network as well as the host within that network. When routing, IP address is use because it explicitly defines a network connection. If your machine is on two networks, two IP addresses will be available.

The IPv4 address is 32-bit whereas the IPv6 address is 128-bit. Every time you connect to the network, your IP address will be change, as it is automatically assign to your computer when it takes part in the network. RARP (Reverse Address Resolution Protocol) can recover the IP address for a particular connection in a network.

Key Differences between MAC Address and IP Address

  1. The full form of MAC address is Media Access Control whereas, the full form of IP address is Internet Protocol address.
  2. The IP address identifies a connection to a device in a network. On the other hand, Mac address identifies a device participating in a network.
  3. MAC address is 48 bits (6 bytes) hexadecimal address whereas, IP address has two versions, IPv4 a 32-bit address and IPv6 a 128-bit address.
  4. MAC address is assign by the manufacturer of interface hardware. On the other hand, IP address is assign by the network administrator or Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  5. ARP protocol retrieves the MAC address whereas RARP protocol retrieves IP address.


MAC and IP address are both need equally when a system wishes to connect in a network with another device.

Difference between MAC Address and IP Address
Difference between MAC Address and IP Address