How to Find a WPA Key on a Wireless Network

by C. Taylor

    The Wi-Fi Protected Access security key is essentially the passphrase used to access the wireless network. This isn't technically accurate, because the key uses a hexadecimal format that is internally calculated from the entered passphrase. However, because this key is calculated behind-the-scenes and is directly related to the passphrase, most users and router manufacturers describe the WPA key and passphrase synonymously. For the purpose of finding a network key, the passphrase will indeed suffice. This passphrase is stored in your router's administrative utility, to which a wired connection is required if you cannot access the wireless network.

    Step 1

    Insert one end of an Ethernet cable into one of the numbered Ethernet ports on the wireless router. Insert the other end into your computer's Ethernet port. Wait a few seconds for your operating system to recognize the connection.

    Step 2

    Press "Win-R," type "cmd" and press "Enter" to open the Command Prompt. Enter "ipconfig" and look for the Ethernet adapter's "Default Gateway." This will likely be "192.168.1.1," "192.168.0.1" or "192.168.2.1."

    Step 3

    Open your browser and enter the default gateway in the address bar.

    Step 4

    Enter your login details. If you are unsure of the login details, try "admin" or blank for the username and "admin," "password" or blank for the password. If that doesn't work, consult your router's user manual for the default password.

    Step 5

    Click "Manual Setup" if asked to manually configure your router or use a configuration wizard.

    Step 6

    Look for "Security" in the administration utility's Wireless section.

    Step 7

    Scroll down to the WPA security section and look for the "Passphrase," "WPA Shared Key" or "Pre-Shared Key" field. If there's an option to "Obscure PSK," uncheck that option to view the key.

    Tips

    • If you cannot access the router, your only option may be to reset the router, which will erase all user-configured data, including the security key. However, this enables you to reconfigure the key to a known value. Most router's reset by pressing and holding a rear "Reset" button for five to 10 seconds, but consult your router manual for more specific details.
    • Some routers may not display the WPA key, but instead show asterisks without the option to remove the obscure option. If that's the case, simply enter a new password and click "Save Changes" or "Apply Settings" to reset the security key.

    Required Items

    • Ethernet cable

    About the Author

    C. Taylor has been a professional writer since 2009. He has written for online publications and the "Journal of Asian Martial Arts." Taylor specializes in martial arts, traveling, sciences and computer repair. He received a Master of Science in wildlife biology from Clemson University and a Bachelor of Arts in biological sciences from the College of Charleston.

    Photo Credits

    • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images