I would like to display all traffic for or from a specific MAC address. For that I tried

sudo tcpdump host aa:bb:cc:11:22:33

It does not work and returns me an error

tcpdump: pktap_filter_packet: pcap_add_if_info(en0, 1) failed: pcap_add_if_info: pcap_compile_nopcap() failed

I don't know how to interpret this error message and I don't know how to solve the problem.

Any help ?

  • Are you sure it is the correct MAC address format? MAC addresses don't have a standard format. I have run into problems with different devices and code requiring different formats. Some need colons, some dashes, some with 2 digits, some with 3, some with 4, and, once, one that needed it cut into half.
    – Ron Maupin
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 0:58
  • Hi, yes pretty sure. This is the format used for responses when it works. Like for example this command works : > sudo tcpdump -e -nni all ether src aa:bb:cc:11:22:33 EDIT : And it returns me approximately what I want basically. (I just discovered that)
    – phenetas
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 1:08
  • That's a truly horrible error message, and tcpdump on OS X prior to Mavericks, or when not capturing on the "any" device on Mavericks and later, or on any other OS would report "tcpdump: ethernet address used in non-ether expression". I've filed bug 21698116 on the Apple bug reporter for this.
    – user2373
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 4:15

2 Answers 2


You have used the following as your packet filter: host aa:bb:cc:11:22:33

As it stands, this is looking for an IP or hostname but you are giving it a MAC address.

To use a MAC address, you need to include the ether packet filter primitive.

In your case, the following should work:

sudo tcpdump ether host aa:bb:cc:11:22:33

Or, if it needs you to specify the interface, then it would be something like:

sudo tcpdump -i eth0 ether host aa:bb:cc:11:22:33
  • Thank you, this is really well explained, I understand the "ether" parameter clearly now. One question now is why can not I see HTTP packet headers when I surf the web ? (I have an iPhone as a test device and I am sniffing for its MAC Address, if I ping it I can see the trafic, if I just wake it or make it sleep I can see the traffic, but nothing when surfing Safari)
    – phenetas
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 18:01
  • No one could really say as we don't know your environment or where you are looking at the data in that environment. I would need to know a lot more before being able to answer that question.
    – YLearn
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 18:26
  • Ok, I develop on a Mac running the last Os 10 Yosemite, and my test device is a iPhone 5S with iOs 7. The network is basic, one wifi access point, one mac, one iPhone. The thing is, if I do a sudo tcpdump I will se all trafic on the network and if I surf the web on my Mac I will see lines like 11:54:20.887984 IP > 886entdc11.enterprise.886ventures.com.domain: 46247+ A? programmers.stackexchange.com. (47), but if I do a sudo tcpdump host IPOfIphone then I will not see anything from the internet trafic if I surf with the phone.
    – phenetas
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 18:55
  • Assuming your "access point" is actually some sort of gateway device and provides your access to the Internet and that you are doing the tcpdump on the Mac: unless you have configured it to do so in some way, the iPhone's internet traffic doesn't go through the Mac so the Mac wouldn't see it.
    – YLearn
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 19:10
  • Yes it makes sense, maybe I am missing the basis of networking (electrical background). So if I understand you are saying that I can only see traffic from/to my mac or broadcasted. But in that case, why can I see traffic when the phone is connecting to the wifi ? In that case I get a 11:45:52.852928 IP > 0*- [0q] 1/0/1 TXT "model=N51AP" (98) which is a communication between the phone ( and which is definitely not my mac (I assume this is the access point).
    – phenetas
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 19:18

You can also use the not argument in conjunction with YLearn's answer to filter out packets from a specific mac address. In my case I needed every packet except the ones from 00:11:22:33:44:55 and I used this-

sudo tcpdump ether -i eth1 host not 00:11:22:33:44:55

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