Can You Trace a MAC Address?

Finding the owner of a MAC address isn't so straightforward

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If your computer was stolen but you know the MAC address of your network card, it might be tempting to look for a MAC address finder, or some sort of central database that can track MAC addresses. Unfortunately, this isn't something you can do.

The same is true if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi and you found their MAC address in the list of connected devices on your router. It'd be great if you could look up that MAC address and cross-reference it with a master list of names and addresses of people with MAC addresses, but this, too, isn't possible.

MAC Addresses Aren't Registered

As you've probably gathered from the introduction, computer makers and people who buy computers, do not have to register their MAC address with any sort of central administration. Because of this, there isn't a way to find a stolen computer from the MAC address, or to find the identity behind one of these addresses.

Much like IP addresses, MAC addresses are assigned to network devices and are easy to determine with tools like Command Prompt. On the other hand, they're unlike IP addresses in that they can't be researched to find the owner.

MAC Address Searching

Although MAC addresses are not filed away somewhere with identifiable information attached to them, there are ways to search for a MAC address to find more information about it. What you find might help you further investigate and troubleshoot.

For example, you can use the website MAC_Find to look up a MAC address to find its vendor information. If it works, you're one step closer to learning more about the manufacturer, but it doesn't really help in a search for finding who owns the MAC address.

On a local network, the arp command can be used with the -a switch to identify the MAC address of a connected device. It works if you know the IP address.

arp -a 192.168.202.146

You can also try arp -a by itself to get a list of IP/MAC combos. Search for the MAC address you have to tie it to the IP address, and then run the tracert command with the IP address to identify the device's hostname.

tracert 192.168.115.86

MAC Addresses Blocking

While blocking a MAC address won't be helpful if your computer was stolen, it can definitely come in handy if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi. When you block a MAC address, what you're really doing is explicitly allowing only certain MAC addresses to connect to your network.

You can block MAC addresses through what's called MAC address filtering. The moment you implement this on your router, anyone using devices that don't comply with your approved listing of MAC addresses, are immediately kicked off your Wi-Fi.