Every network adapter has a MAC address, a unique value used to identify devices at the physical network layer.
Normally this address stays the same forever, which may allow networks to recognise and track you.
This isn’t always a bad thing – a network could use a MAC address to allow device access without authentication – but if you’re concerned, most MAC addresses can be changed in a few seconds.
Windows 10 comes with MAC randomization built in. Click the network icon in your taskbar, then select Network Settings to begin.
Click the connection you’d like to change, then scroll down and hit “Manage Wi-Fi Settings”.
Select “Use random hardware addresses” to turn it on, and your system should now use a different MAC address every time you connect to a new network.
There are several reasons this might not work as advertised. If your driver doesn’t support it, for instance, or some other network software has taken control, it’s possible the option will be greyed out.
Another complication is that Windows 10 always uses the same MAC address when connecting to the same network.
That is, the system generates a random address for your first connection, but then reuses that for future connections. (Mathy Vanhoef’s blog discusses the details here.)
If you need some networks to recognise you then this might not be a problem, but if you prefer to go completely random – or the option is greyed out, or you’re not using Windows 10 at all – then it’s best to switch to a specialist MAC-changing tool.
There’s plenty of choice around, but Technitium MAC Address Changer works well for us – it runs on XP-10, makes it easy to identify network connections, sets and restores MAC addresses in a click or two, is ultra configurable and has a handy network monitor thrown in.
Technitium MAC Address Changer is a freeware application for Windows XP and later.