How to Configure WPA Support in Microsoft Windows

Windows XP and later supports the WPA/WPA2 network security standard

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Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is one of several popular standards for ​wireless network security. To set up WPA for Windows, you may need to upgrade one or more components of your network including wireless adapters, the wireless access point, and your operating system.

Instructions in this article apply to setting up WPA in Windows XP and later. WPA is not available for older versions of Windows.

What You Need to Use WPA for Windows

You will need the following to set up WPA for Windows:

  • A Wi-Fi wireless router (or another access point)
  • At least one client running Windows XP or later with a Wi-Fi network adapter
  • Internet connectivity to download software updates

WPA should not to be confused with Microsoft Product Activation (also known as Windows Product Activation), a separate technology that is also included with Windows.

How to Configure WPA for Microsoft

Follow these instructions to set up WPA on Wi-Fi networks with Windows computers:

  1. Make sure each computer on the network is running the latest service pack for their version of Windows. Visit the Windows Service Pack Update Center page to download the latest updates for your OS.

    If using Windows XP, make sure you have the XP Service Pack 3 or newer for the best WPA/WPA2 support.

    Visit the Windows Service Pack Update Center page to download the latest updates for your OS.
  2. Verify that your wireless network router (or another access point) supports WPA. If necessary, visit the manufacturer's website for information on how to upgrade the firmware and enable WPA. Because some older wireless access points do not support WPA, you may need to replace yours.

    The WPA configuration page on the Netgear support website
  3. Verify that each client's wireless network adapter also supports WPA. Install the latest device drivers from the adapter's manufacturer if necessary. Because some wireless network adapters cannot support WPA, you may need to replace them.

    Intel network adapter driver download page
  4. Verify that the network adapters are compatible with either the Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service or the Native Wi-Fi API. Consult the adapter's documentation or the manufacturer's website for details about these services, then upgrade the driver and configuration software to support it if necessary.

    Microsoft's Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) documentation guide
  5. Apply compatible WPA settings on each Wi-Fi device. These settings cover network encryption and authentication. The WPA encryption keys (or passphrases) chosen must match exactly between devices.

    Neatgear router WPA security options

For authentication, two versions of Wi-Fi Protected Access exist called WPA and WPA2. To run both versions on the same network, ensure the access point is configured for WPA2 mixed mode. Otherwise, you must set all devices to WPA or WPA2 mode exclusively.

Wi-Fi products use different naming conventions to describe types of WPA authentication. Set all equipment to use either Personal/PSK or Enterprise/*EAP options.