IP vs MAC Address
What is IP Address?
In a network that uses Internet Protocol to communicate between the entities such as computers or printers of the network, the logical numerical label or address assigned to each entity is called an IP address (Internet Protocol Address). IP address serves the purpose of identifying and locating each entity separately in the network at the interface level and functions at the Network Layer of OSI model.
IP addressing has two versions depending on the number of bits used to store the address, namely Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) which is developed with 32 bit addressing mode and most widely used, and Internet Protocol Version 6 (Ipv6) developed with 128 bits addressing Mode in the late 90’s. Though IP address is a binary number, usually it’s stored in the host in a human readable format. The Internet Assigned Number Authority manages the space and name allocation for IP addresses globally.
IP addresses are of two types; Static IP addresses are permanent and are assigned to the host manually by an Administrator. Dynamic IP addresses are newly assigned to the host each time it is booted by computer interface, host software or by a server using DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or Point-to-Point Protocol, which are the technologies used to assign Dynamic IP address.
Dynamic IP addresses are used so that administrators do not have to assign IP addresses manually to each host. But in some cases, such as in translating a domain name to an IP address by the DNS (Domain Name System), it is essential to have a static IP address as it would be impossible to locate the location of a domain if it contains a frequently changeable IP address.
What is MAC Address?
MAC Address or Media Access Control Address is hardware or physical address associated with the Network Adapter of a host and is assigned by the Manufacturer of the NIC (Network Interface Card). MAC Addresses functions at the Data Link Layer of the OSI Model and serve as unique identifications of each adapter at a lower level in a Local Area Network (LAN).
Each MAC Address consists of 48 bits, with the upper-half contains the ID number of the Adapter Manufacturer, and the lower-half contains a unique serial number assigned to each Network Adapter by the manufacturer and is stored in the Adapter’s hardware.
|Organizationally unique Identifier (3 bytes)||Network Interface Controller Specific (3 bytes)|
MAC Addresses are formed according to the rules of either of the three numbering name spaces MAC -48, EUI -48, and EUI – 64, maintained by IEEE.
What is the difference between IP Address and MAC Address?
Though IP address and MAC Address both serve the purpose of giving hosts a unique Identification in a Network, depending on the status and function, these two have several differences. When the functioning Layer of Addressing is considered, while MAC Address functions in Data Link Layer, IP address operates in Network Layer.
MAC address gives a unique identification to the hardware interface of network, whereas the IP Address gives a unique identification to the software interface of the Network. Furthermore, if the assignment of address is considered, MAC addresses are assigned permanently to adapters and cannot be changed as they are Physical addresses. In contrast, IP addresses, either static or dynamic, can be modified depending on the requirements as they are logical entities or addresses. In addition, MAC addresses come in handy when it comes to Local Area Networks.
If the format is considered, the IP addresses use 32 or 128 bits long addresses while MAC addresses use a 48 bits long address. In a simplified view, IP address can be considered to support software implementations and MAC address can be considered as supporting hardware implementations of the network.
Despite differences, IP networks maintain a mapping between MAC address and IP address of a device, referred to as ARP or Address Resolution Protocol.