How to Filter MAC Addresses to Secure Your Wireless Network

Stop unknown devices from connecting to your Wi-Fi network

What to Know

  • Get address: Open Command Prompt, enter ipconfig /all (Windows). Go to System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi > Advanced (Mac).
  • Access your router's settings and configuration menu. Refer to the owner's manual if you don't know how to do it.
  • To find the support pages for your specific router online, search for the make and model, such as "NETGEAR R9000 MAC filtering."

Most wireless network routers and access points let you filter devices based on their MAC address, which is a device's physical address on the network. If you enable MAC address filtering in Windows or macOS, only the devices with MAC addresses configured in the wireless router or access point are allowed to connect.

There are other types of filtering that can be done on a router that are different from MAC filtering. For example, content filtering is when you prevent certain keywords or website URLs from passing through the network.

How to Find Your MAC Address in Windows

This technique works in all versions of Windows:

  1. Open the Run dialog box by using the Win+R keyboard shortcut.

  2. Type cmd in the small window that appears to open Command Prompt.

    Windows desktop showing cmd in the Open field
  3. Type ipconfig /all in the Command Prompt window.

    Command Prompt in Windows 10 with the ipconfig/all command highlighted
  4. Press Enter to submit the command. You should see a bunch of text show up within that window.

    Command Prompt in Windows 10 with config text
  5. Find the line labeled Physical Address or physical access address. That is the MAC address for that adapter.

    If you have more than one network adapter, you will need to look through the results to make sure you get the MAC address from the correct adapter. There will be a different one for your wired network adapter and your wireless one.

    Config All text in Windows 10 with the Physical Address heading highlighted

How to Locate the MAC Address on a Mac

The process for finding the MAC address for filtering on a Mac desktop or laptop computer is slightly different. Here's how it works.

  1. Select System Preferences under the Apple menu.

    System Preferences under a Mac's Apple Menu
  2. Click Network.

    macOS System Preferences with the Network section highlighted
  3. Select Wi-Fi in the left pane.

    macOS Network preferences with the Wi-Fi panel highlighted
  4. Click the Advanced button.

    macOS Network preferences with the Advanced button highlighted
  5. Your MAC address appears next to Wi-Fi Address.

    Wi-Fi preferences in macOS with the Wi-Fi (MAC) address highlighted

How to Filter MAC Addresses in Your Router

The MAC address is a unique identifier for networking hardware, such as wireless network adapters. While it's possible to spoof the MAC address so an attacker can pretend to be an authorized user, no casual hacker or curious snooper will go to such lengths, so MAC filtering protects you from the majority of users.

Refer to your owner's manual for the wireless network router or access point you are using to learn how to access the configuration and administration screens and enable and configure MAC address filtering to protect your wireless network.

For example, if you have a TP-Link router, you can follow the instructions on their website to configure wireless MAC address filtering. Some NETGEAR routers hold the setting in the ADVANCED > Security > Access Control screen. MAC filtering on a Comtrend AR-5381u router is done through the Wireless > MAC Filter menu like you see here.

To find the support pages for your specific router, just do an online search for the make and model, something like "NETGEAR R9000 MAC filtering."

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