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MAC Address

MAC addresses are 12-digit (48-bit) hexadecimal numbers. By convention, they are
usually written in one of the following three formats:
MM:MM:MM:SS:SS:SS
MM-MM-MM-SS-SS-SS
MMM.MMM.SSS.SSS
The leftmost 6 digits (24 bits) called a "prefix" is associated with the adapter
manufacturer. Each vendor registers and obtains MAC prefixes as assigned by the
IEEE. Vendors often possess many prefix numbers associated with their different
products. For example, the prefixes 00:13:10, 00:25:9C and 68:7F:74 (plus many
others) all belong to Linksys (Cisco Systems).
The rightmost digits of a MAC address represent an identification number for the
specific device. Among all devices manufactured with the same vendor prefix, ea
ch is given their own unique 24-bit number. Note that hardware from different ve
ndors may happen to share
A typical MAC address looks something like this:
af-14-b3-c2-14-45
You may be wondering why we've got letters and numbers in this address. MAC addr
esses are expressed in hexadecimal, which gives us the ability to express more v
alues with the same number of bits. Theoretically, every single NIC in the world
should have a totally unique MAC address , and the only way to do this is to ex
press MAC addresses in hexadecimal.
MAC addresses are actually made up of two parts, so let's take another look at t
he one I showed you earlier.
af-14-b3-c2-14-45
The first half of that address (af-14-b3) is the Organizationally Unique Identif
ier. This particular OUI would belong to one and only one vendor, making it "org
anizationally unique". The second half of the address is a combination of hex ch
aracters that this particular vendor has not used before with this particular OU
I, sometimes called the Device ID.
Breaking the example down into its two parts :
af-14-b3 is the OUI
c2-14-45 is the Device ID
In this way, the MAC address should be unique from any other MAC address in exis
tence. (The use of hex means we can have 281,474,976,710,656 possible combinatio
ns.)
Note the highest hex value is f. If all values in a MAC address are set to f, th
at's the MAC broadcast address. Expressing a hex value in upper or lower case do
es not change the value, so both of the following are the same address. Watch o
ut for any MAC address that contains a letter that comes after "F" in the alphab
et - that's an invalid address. For example, both of the following MAC addresses
are invalid. 11-22-33-44-55-hf Rf-12-34-45-56-67
MAC addresses can be expressed with hyphens, as we've seen so far in this chapte
r, or with colons. They can also be expressed in a format similar to IP addresse
s. To illustrate, all of the following MAC addresses are the same address and ar
e all valid ways of expressing a MAC address.
aa-bb-cc-dd-ee-34 aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:34 aabb.ccdd.ee34
While we spend most of our time working with IP addresses, data can't be transmi
tted from one point to another without the right MAC addresses.