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Magic items are fairly common in Diablo 2. They are denoted by their name being colored blue, as opposed to a normal item's white. When a Magic item is dropped from a chest or monster, it initially appears unidentified. Unlike in the original Diablo, you cannot equip an item you haven't identified yet. There are two ways to identify (or ID) such an item. First, you can purchase a Scroll of Identify, and use it on the item. Second, if you've finished the Act 1 quest; The Search for Cain, you can ask Cain to identify the item for you. He will ID items at no charge, if you succeeded in saving him, or by a small fee if you did not complete the quest. It is as simple as selecting the "Identify Items" command when you speak to him.
In Diablo 3, magic items can be identified by using the Book of Cain, located next to your stash in every Act. Doing so will take a few seconds, but will identify every item in your inventory free of charge. Or, if you wish to have Deckard Cain himself identify them, you can do so in the period of time between saving him and before his death at the hands of Maghda, also for free.
When you identify a Magic Item, you will see certain words added to the item's name, either prefixes (Such as "Brutal Short Sword"), suffixes ("Axe of Frost"), or a combination of both ("Glowing Ring of Craftsmanship"). Each prefix or suffix represents one magical property on the item. However, multiple prefixes or suffixes can't appear on one single Magic Item (For more on that, see Rare Items). This means the most special attributes a Magic item can have is two. The affixes on a Magic item are determined by the game the moment the item appears, not when you identify it. There is a 1/4 chance of a Magic item having both a prefix and a suffix, a 1/4 chance of only a prefix, and a 1/2 chance of only a suffix.
Almost every attribute that appears on Magic items can also appear on Rare items, but there are a few that are Magic-only (they will only appear on Magic items). This is because the affixes would give an unbalanced amount of power to a Rare item.