Using Random Hardware Addresses

by Eric Wyatt
(last updated November 22, 2021)

2

When your computer uses Wi-Fi, you have the freedom of moving around and easily connecting to a network or the internet from anywhere. If you have the correct credentials, you can log on and access whatever you have been given permissions to access. You might think that this is reciprocal, and in many ways you are correct—a Wi-Fi network should not be able to access your computer unless you give permission (by joining the network). However, there is plenty of information that networks can gain from your computer even if you have not connected.

When your computer is not connected to Wi-Fi, it is continually sending out a signal looking for a network it can join. This signal includes information that can be used to identify your computer. This signal includes your computer's unique physical hardware (MAC) address. If you are using a laptop, for example, when you are in areas such as airports, shopping centers, or coffee houses, your MAC address can be used to track your movement in that area. Even if you are on a desktop computer in an area with other Wi-Fi networks your information can be shared.

Windows, fortunately, has a feature called Random Hardware Addresses that, when enabled, secures your computer so that no one can see this information. To turn Random Hardware Addresses on in Windows 10 or 11, follow these simple steps.

  1. PressÊWindows+I. Windows opens the Settings window.
  2. Select Network & Internet to open the Network & Internet section of the Settings Window.
  3. Select Wi-Fi to display the Wi-Fi settings for your computer.
  4. Use the toggle to enable Random Hardware Addresses.
  5. Close the Settings window.

Your changes take effect immediately. It is that simple to enable Random Hardware Addresses on your computer.

If you followed the steps above and did not see the Random Hardware Addresses option, it is because your Wi-Fi card does not yet support Random Hardware Addresses. It is also important to note that enabling Random Hardware Addresses in an IT administered environment can cause problems, so you'll want to consult with your IT administrator before enabling the feature.

Now you can help hide the information your computer sends out to Wi-Fi networks, and potentially keep your movements private within various locations.

 This tip (11903) applies to Windows 10 and 11.

Author Bio

Eric Wyatt

Eric Wyatt is a swell guy (or so his friends tell him). He is a formally trained designer and branding expert, bringing a wide range of skills to his Tips.Net articles. ...

MORE FROM ERIC

Defining Words Quickly

When reading a webpage, e-book, or PDF, Microsoft Edge can quickly show you the meaning of a word that you might need to ...

Discover More

Remove Saved Passwords in Edge Chromium

Having Edge store password information can be a time saver and helpful. See how to remove saved passwords within Edge.

Discover More

Showing File Extensions

All file types have an extension, and Microsoft hides them by default. Learn how to turn file extensions on.

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Turn Off/On Window Snap

Windows allows for a system window to "snap" to certain areas of your screen. You can easily turn this feature on or off.

Discover More

Changing the Size of Start Screen Tiles

The Start screen can serve as your launching pad for whatever programs you use on your system. If your Start screen ...

Discover More

Turning on Inactive Window Scroll

Have you ever needed to scroll through an inactive window while keeping another window active? This tip will show you how ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 1?

2021-11-22 10:58:48

Dan

Ref. Step 4, there is no toggle to enable Random Hardware Addresses.
When I do a search for Random Hardware Addresses, the Wi-Fi page is displayed but there is no other information available.


2021-11-22 10:30:25

Tomek

Where exactly is that toggle that you mention in step 4?
I have a Win10 desktop, connected by wired RJ45 directly to the DSL router/switch. The computer has WiFi but it is not actively connected to any WiFi network.


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.