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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    9

    MAC Address as Primary Key

    Do you think the MAC address is suitable for use as a primary key of a table? I can see both pros and cons for this identifier. The pros are that it is definitely unique since it is how networks manage identity. The cons are for the user. Say you need to modify a MAC address because you typed it in incorrectly. You cannot do that easily if it is the primary key. What does everyone think about the MAC address as a primary key? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    In front of the computer
    Posts
    15,579
    First and foremost, what possible purpose can it serve to use a MAC address for any part of a user interface? Unless your target market is networking professionals, this is an incredibly obscure piece of information that means little or nothing to most users.

    Many networking devices (such as Cisco wireless routers) support spoofing MAC addresses. Many Asian knock-off manufacturers (who clone hardware from other vendors) also reuse the original vendor's MAC addresses. Learning to spoof a MAC address is one of the first steps to becoming a garden grade hacker. Relying on the uniqueness of MAC addresses is fairly safe for most users, but no where near "iron clad" for these reasons and other reasons too.

    The average end user has no clue what a MAC address is. You need to be at least moderately geeky to understand what a MAC address is, much less how to determine what your MAC address is. Since many machines have multiple MAC addresses, it is tricky to get users that can find a MAC address on a machine to consistantly provide you with the correct MAC address.

    -PatP

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    9
    My bad. I should have mentioned that the database I am designing is for networking professionals. The MAC address will be needed regardless of whether it is the primary key or not.

    I fully understand the whole spoofing argument but there isn't much I can do about that in this particular area so its not really important.

    I'm not really concerned with the end user knowing what a MAC address is. Suffice to say, the end user will have enough education to provide that information.

    All I want to know is whether there are any good arguments for not making the MAC address a primary key. The only one I have heard is giving the user the ability to edit the address just in case they made a typo on the initial input. Thanks.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    741
    Depends what you are trying to identify with a key.

    If you are trying to identify a particular piece of hardware then a tag number would make more sense than a MAC address I think. You can verify a printed tag number even if the hardware is switched off or broken. A tag number doesn't suffer from the other problems already stated.

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