How to Calculate MAC Address to Binary

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Although zeros and ones can be confusing, they actually make up what the computer interprets.

Media Access Control (MAC) addresses are each unique to each piece of computer hardware that accesses a network. A MAC address corresponds to the specific network interface your computer is using to connect to the Internet. You might see this address referred to as the "physical address" or "hardware address" of your computer. To translate it to binary, it is helpful to have a basic concept of what base 2 numeration is and how it works.

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Step 1

Divide the address into six equal parts of two numbers, to maintain organization. Each of these groups of two numbers is going to take up one byte. Make sure there is plenty of space between the groups so that you can write another eight numbers under them.

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Step 2

Write eight values of "0" under every group of numbers. To make it easier to visualize, split the eight values to two groups of four values. Each number in the two-number group will have its own group of four bits. Your goal is to write a "1" under each "0" value where it is appropriate. The rightmost bit in your byte will represent 2^0 (two raised to the zero power) and each byte as you go left will represent the number 2 raised to a subsequently higher value (for example, the third place value would represent 2^2, or 4, so a value of "1" in that place would represent "4").

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Step 3

Fill in the zeros where there are no numbers in the sequence of ones. You will end up with something like this:

8B = 1000 (8) 1011 (B)

Step 4

Continue doing this until you have converted the entire sequence. With a MAC of 00-50-56-C0-00-08, you should end up with this:

0000 0000 (00) 0101 0000 (50) 0101 0110 (56) 1100 0000 (C0) 0000 0000 (00) 0000 1000 (08)

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The spacing and parentheses were inserted just to make it more readable. This is an example of how a MAC address would actually appear in a computer's language:

000000000101000001010110110000000000000000001000

Tip

If you want to make the process much easier, look at the binary/hexadecimal table in the first reference. This table contains every binary value for every hexadecimal number. Just make sure that you fill in zeros to the left of the last “1." Otherwise, you will end up with a sloppy and unreadable bit array. Each byte must consist of eight bits.

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