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I'm wondering if there is uniqueness of serial number accross hardware manufacturer. For Mac address it's well know that manufacturer has prefix to ensure uniqueness. For Motors there is a unique VIN

Is anyone aware of such thing for Servers, Network device, etc. ?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Don't expect a unique number across multiple device of multiple brands. I wrote a software/hardware inventory software for a cople of cutomers. My solution was to "sign" with a random string each PC/Server, knowing that if the PC is reformatterd/reinstalled, the signature changes.

I use WMI interface to query the hardware. Many system boards return '00000000' or an empty string when you query the serial number. Some (HP, Compaq, Dell) return the actual serial number, but keep in mind that it can be changed in the BIOS configuration.

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I rely on serial number scanned on hardware package, so I will not have any bios change problem ;). Just needed to be sure that I must prefix the serial with more info to get a unique identifier – radius Aug 18 '10 at 12:49
A random number+serial numer is a very good idea. – lrosa Aug 18 '10 at 12:51
If the random value is unique, else you just reduce probability of conflicts. In my case I will prefix with a (home made) unique manufacturer prefix. – radius Aug 18 '10 at 13:09

Manufacturers can do whatever they want for the serial number of their end products. Only for something that must interact with other things are there really any registered databases like MAC addresses and USB devices. Otherwise the S/N on a Compaq would resemble a Dell ID. Also, you can probably assume there isn't a standard because of all the issues Microsoft has with that @#% "authentication" of Windows that occurs when hardware changes. It collects a series of ID's to figure out the "home system" and measures a change of a number of components to verify that it's not pirated, and even then where would the ID be kept? BIOS? Changing the motherboard would negate that.

If you have a specific application in mind maybe others could have some suggestions?

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And don't expect that MACs are unique. This stopped when it first was possible to change it via software instead of having it hardcoded in the NIC, and it got worse when virtual NICs appeared along with VMWare and co.

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The MACs in the hardware are unique, even with VMWare, unless you set them to spoof another manufacturer. They're unique but not necessarily accurate :-) If the application the poster is using is on the hardware itself he should still be able to poll the hardware for the "actual" MAC address, just not rely on it remotely, I think. – Bart Silverstrim Aug 18 '10 at 12:38
Static "burned-in" MAC addresses are usually assigned using a PRNG for the lower bits, so you're pretty unlikely to get two identical MACs from the same production lot, but duplicated hardware MACs (without spoofing) do exist in the wild, I have seen it myself. – Vatine Aug 18 '10 at 12:56
@Vatine-sure the duped hardware wasn't pirated hardware? I've read of authentic-looking SD cards and USB thumbdrives that look remarkably authentic but are actually knockoffs. – Bart Silverstrim Aug 18 '10 at 13:11
Bart: Practically, you are right, of course, but I just wait to see news about a cheap no-name lot of NICs with identical MACs from an unidentified source ... Besides, I am more concerned about security implications when one falsely assumes unique and unalterable MAC addresses, starting with switch "port security" and MAC filtering for WLAN APs. – Sven Aug 18 '10 at 13:50

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