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What is the difference between IP address and machine address?

Do you know the difference between an IP address and a machine address? Find out in this Ask the Expert response.

What is the difference between IP address and machine address, in brief?

According to an IPv4 version of the Internet Protocol (IP), as opposed to an IPv6 version, an IP address is defined below:

"An IP address is a 32-bit number that identifies each sender or receiver of information that is sent in packets across the Internet.… An IP address has two parts: the identifier of a particular network on the Internet and an identifier of the particular device (which can be a server or a workstation) within that network. On the Internet itself -- that is, between the router that moves packets from one point to another along the route -- only the network part of the address is looked at." -- Steve Spence, Contributor

A "machine address" is sometimes known as the "host number" or "host address." In the two parts of the IP address described above; the identifier of the network is the "network number" while the identifier of the device is the "machine address" or "host number." To view an example of this, I recommend reading the WhatIs.com definition of 32-bit IP addressing.

Now, we can conclude the difference between an IP address and a machine address: In brief, the machine address is only one part of the IP address that identifies a location of a machine, and the IP address consists of numbers which identify a network as well as a computer machine.

If you'd like to learn more about IP addressing, I recommend this short tutorial on IP addressing and subnetting.

This was last published in February 2010

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