There are many reasons why it is important to be able to tell the difference between a MAC address and an IP Address, especially when working with a network. Knowing the difference helps when mapping network devices or when having to troubleshoot network issues.
A MAC address is a Media Access Control Address that works much like an IP Address except that the MAC address does not connect to the Internet. This is a connection and identification tool that is used in networking. MAC addresses are built into devices such as routers by the manufacturer of the device. MAC addresses typically are hardware related. They remain with the hardware and move with the hardware. An IP Address, on the other hand, is software related and works with programs such as browsers, operating systems, and websites. Unlike a MAC address, the IP Address is not a constant nor a fixed code. It does not move with the PC it remains with the Internet Service Provider.
A key difference between an IP Address and a MAC address is how they physically appear. An IP Address is typically four groups of number separated by a period. 202.353.212.2 is an example of what an IP Address would look like. A MAC address, on the other hand, is six groups of two numbers or letters (alphanumeric) that are separated by a colon. OO:C9:C3:56:A7:11 is an example of how a MAC address will appear.
Because MAC addresses are issued by the manufacturer of a device, and not by an Internet Service provider, they also serve to identify the manufacturer. An IP address helps to identify an Internet Service Provider (ISP.) Both the MAC address and the IP address can be used to locate a machine, but they are used in different ways. If you need to figure out if an IP address belongs to a MAC or if it an IP Address that is used to access the Internet, then the easiest way to determine that is to look at how it is displayed.
Sometimes, however; a MAC address might appear at just a string of alphanumeric characters, such as F845C820J0952F7, then you can be fairly sure that is a MAC address. Another key difference between a MAC address and an IP Address is that the MAC address will use a number/letter combination, whereas, an IP Address just numbers.
If you are searching in DOS than a MAC address might be separated by dashes rather than colons, and it may look like this: 00-4g-df-5h-44-f5. Again, the key is alphanumeric in nature.