To connect your devices to a WiFi network, you’ll typically need a network security key.
If you’ve forgotten your network security key, don’t panic. There are some quick ways to find or recover it.
Many of these methods also work if you’re staying at a friend’s house or Airbnb and the host is away, and you’d like to connect your devices to the internet but don’t know the password.
In simpler terms, your network security key is your WiFi password.
A network security key enables devices to connect to a wireless internet network safely. It ensures security for the network, preventing strangers, hackers, or neighbors from logging onto your network, using your connection, or tracking your activity.
This encryption key is necessary because a wireless network doesn’t have the same built-in protections as wired connections. Anyone within range of your router would be able to log on and use your network if it isn’t secured with a network security key.
However, there are several types of network security keys for WiFi networks, each using a different protocol to ensure the safety of the network.
There are four main types of network security keys. Let’s go through them, as it’s useful to understand these terms when searching for your password.
WEP is an old type of network security protocol. It stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy.
Developed in 1999 and discarded by the WiFi Alliance in 2004, WEP has many security flaws. As its name suggests, it was meant to be a way to make wireless networks and connections as safe as wired connections.
You likely won’t encounter WEP security keys any longer, unless you come across a very old internet router.
That’s because the WEP protocol leaves much to be desired. It’s no longer an acceptable and safe way to secure networks.
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After the WiFi Alliance discontinued the WEP protocol, it moved on to a new protocol, WiFi Protected Access. At first, the WiFi Alliance was using TKIP, or the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol, together with WPA.
Like WEP, WPA is now outdated, as is TKIP. WPA is discontinued and no longer a safe way to secure a network, and TKIP is an unsafe encryption method that should no longer be used.
WPA2 is the new and improved version of WiFi Protected Access. It uses AES, or the Advanced Encryption Standard, a massive improvement on TKIP.
WPA2 is still the most common WiFi security protocol used, though it is no longer the most updated version of the WPA protocol.
WPA3 is the newest version of the WiFi Protected Access protocol, released in 2018. It is more optimized for the Internet of Things (which didn’t really exist back when WPA2 came out), has better cryptography, and protects against brute attacks.
However, most devices are not yet optimized for WPA3, and it may take years before it is fully deployed.
Most likely, your router uses WPA2, and you’ll need to find the WPA2 security key.
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If you forgot your WiFi password or are at someone’s house and want to know what their password is but can’t ask them, there are usually two places you can go to quickly learn the network security key.
Your WiFi network security key will almost always be listed on the router. Typically, there will be a sticker on the side of the router with the WiFi password on it – you just have to know where to look.
The password might be labeled as:
- WiFi Security Key
- Wireless Security Key
- Wireless Password
- WPA2 Key
- WPA2 Password
- Login Credentials
The exact label will depend on the company. However, it shouldn’t be too hard to find it, once you find the sticker.
Look on all sides of the router if you don’t see it.
It’s important not to confuse the network security key with other details on the sticker. For example, the SSID is not the password.
Despite containing two S’s in it, the term SSID has nothing to do with the word “security.” Instead, SSID stands for Service Set Identifier, and it is your network ID, not your network key.
In other words, your SSID is the default network name. However, if you are at a friend’s house, you may not recognize the SSID or see it in the list of WiFi networks on your phone.
That’s because your friend may have changed the default network name. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that they changed the password.
It’s critical to note that this method is not always foolproof. Your friend may have taken the sticker off the router, or they may have changed the default network security key.
If the security key was changed, the one on the router will no longer work. The same applies if you changed it yourself, but no longer remember what you changed it to.
If that’s the case, don’t worry. There are other ways to recover or reset the network security key.
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If you got a new router, and it doesn’t have a sticker with the network security key, you may also be able to find your network security key in the box your router came with. It could be on a separate piece of paper or inside the manual.
What if you can’t find your network security key on the router, or you are at a friend’s house, and you can’t figure out where the router is? Or, what if you or your friend changed the password from the default password that is stated on the router?
If that happens, there are a number of effortless ways to recover your network security key. If you have a laptop or phone already connected to the network, it won’t be difficult.
For example, you may have a laptop that automatically remembers the WiFi network password at a friend’s house from the last time you went to visit them. However, you may now want to connect your phone to the network as well, but you can’t remember the password.
In that case, you can recover the WiFi password from your laptop and then use it to connect your phone to the network or vice versa.
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If you have a Windows laptop already logged into the WiFi network, you can go to your network settings on your laptop and find the password you entered when first connecting the computer to the network.
Here is how to do that on Windows 11:
- Click the Start button
- Search for and launch the Control Panel
- Click on Network and Internet
- Tap on Network and Sharing Center
- Find the Connections list and the WiFi network you are currently connected to
- Click on Wireless Properties under WiFi Status
- Switch to the Security tab
- The Network Security Key will be displayed, but you’ll need to check the “Show Characters” box to show it.
Here is how to find your password on Windows 10:
- Click the Start button
- Open the Settings
- Click on Network & Internet and then on Status
- Find the Network and Sharing Center
- Follow steps 5-8 as above
On a Windows 7 or 8.1, you may have to follow these steps:
- Open the Start menu
- Type “network” into the search bar
- Find the “Network and Sharing Center” and open it
- Follow steps 5-8 as above
If you have a Mac, getting your WiFi password is just as easy, as long as you are already connected to the network. You’ll need to use the KeyChain Access app, which is a macOS app that stores passwords and other important data.
- Start by searching for and opening the KeyChain Access app
- Scroll down to the Passwords section on the left side of the screen, and click on it
- Enter the name of your WiFi network in the search bar to find it
- Click on the WiFi network name once it shows up in the results
- Check the “Show Password” box to display the password in the field
- Enter your admin password if needed
Not everyone knows about this, but you can actually find the WiFi password on most newer Android phones.
Start by going to your WiFi settings and finding the list of WiFi networks around you. Then, click on the WiFi network you are connected to.
You should see a QR code. You have two options here.
The first option is to scan the QR code using your other device, which allows you to immediately connect that device to the WiFi network.
However, if you simply want to figure out the WiFi password, and you don’t have another device, there is a cool hack you can perform.
Start by downloading a QR scanner app on your Android device. Then, go back to your WiFi settings, click on the WiFi network you are connected to, and take a screenshot of the QR code once it appears.
Head back to your QR code scanner app and upload the screenshot you just took to the app. The app will display the network name and password.
If you have a newer Android phone, you may see a “Share” option when clicking on the WiFi network name. Click on that “Share” option, and you should see the QR code and the WiFi password right under it, without needing to download any additional apps.
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Unfortunately, there is no built-in way to recover a WiFi password from an iPhone that is not jailbroken.
However, what you can do is share the WiFi password to another iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Both devices must be running the latest iOS version (or High Sierra or a later version in the case of a Mac).
Furthermore, WiFi and Bluetooth must be turned on both devices, and you must be signed in to your iCloud account. If you are sharing it to your friend’s device, both of you must have each other saved as contacts.
Keep the devices close to each other. Tell your friend to try to log onto the WiFi network.
On your phone, you will see an option to share the WiFi password at the bottom of the screen. Click on the “Share Password” button to let them connect to the WiFi network.
While you can’t recover the actual network security key on an iPhone, this is the next best thing.
If you don’t have a Windows, Mac, or Android already connected to the WiFi network, you can still discover your WiFi password by logging into your router settings from your browser. It’s best if you do this from your laptop, but you can do it from a phone or tablet as well.
To start, you’ll need to be connected to the router. If you aren’t yet connected to the WiFi network because you don’t have the password in the first place, you should be able to connect via the WPS button on your router.
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WPS stands for WiFi Protected Setup, and most modern routers are equipped with it. It allows you to connect laptops or phones to the wireless network without a password.
While connecting to the WiFi network from your device, pushing the WPS button on the router will automatically connect the device to the network. Depending on the device, you may have to go to your WiFi settings and find “WPS Connection” – click on it and then click the button on your router.
You can also connect to the router by plugging one end of an Ethernet cable into the router and the other end into your computer.
Using WPS, it can take a few minutes for a connection to be established, so have patience.
Once you are connected, enter your WiFi router’s IP address into the browser. Almost all routers use one of the following IP addresses:
You may also find the router’s IP address on the side of the router.
If you see a security warning, click on “Advanced” and “Continue Anyway.” Since your router is on your local network, that security warning doesn’t mean anything.
Once you’ve typed that address into your browser, you’ll need to log into your router’s settings.
You’ll be asked to enter your username and password. By default, at least for most routers, the username will be admin and the password will be password – it’s simple!
Besides the admin/password combination, you may also be able to leave both fields blank. Other username/password combinations may include:
You can see a full list of default usernames and passwords for most common routers here. You’ll also be able to see the IP address for each model, in case none of the three IP addresses listed above worked.
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Once you’ve successfully logged in, you’ll be able to view your current WiFi password and/or create a new one. Look around if you don’t see it at first – it might be under a section labeled “WiFi” or something like that.
Of course, we’re assuming you didn’t change the default username and password (the router login information, not the actual WiFi password). If you did, you will have to remember the password you set to log into your router settings.
If you changed the router settings password and can’t remember what the current one is, move on to the next section.
If you don’t remember the password you set, you can reset your router using its reset button. Doing that will reset the router login information back to the default username and password.
Find the reset button on your router, and press down on it for 10-15 seconds. Once you have restored your router to factory settings, you can proceed as above and log into your router settings, using the default username and password (which is usually admin and password).
Then, you can view the WiFi network security key, which will be reset back to the default password. You can also change it to a new one.
To summarize, your wireless network security key is basically your WiFi password. Finding it is typically as easy as looking at the router and reading the sticker on the side.
If you don’t see it on the router or can’t find the router, you can recover it from a connected Windows, Mac, or Android phone (depending on the Android version). How to do so is explained above.
On a device connected to the network (you can use WPS to connect to the WiFi if you don’t have the password), you can also log into your router’s settings and see or change the WiFi password there.
If you don’t remember your login information and the default login details don’t work, you can reset your router to make the default login details work again.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.