What Is a Network Security Key and How Do You Find It?

Everything you need to know to find and use your network security key

A network security key is a code or passphrase you enter to connect your computer or mobile device to a private network. For example, if your home Wi-Fi network is secured (as it should be), you enter a network security key to join it. The purpose of a network security key is to prevent unauthorized access to a network and keep your Wi-Fi network secure.

Finding Your Network Security Key 

The fastest, easiest way to find your network security key is through your router directly.

  1. Log into your home router as an administrator. Menu systems vary among router brands, but most show your network SSID and network security key on the main page.

    Router main screen showing network security key

    Visit the website of your router's manufacturer to learn how to access your router's dashboard.

  2. If your network security key doesn't show on the main screen, find Connection, Wi-Fi, or similar in the navigation menu to locate the Wi-Fi connection settings screen. You'll likely see the network security key there.

    Screenshot of Wi-Fi connection settings in the router

Find the Network Security Key on Your Phone

You also can view the stored network security key on your Android or iPhone. Here's how.

On an Android Device

On an Android, the best option if you don't have root access is to install and connect Minimal ADB and Fastboot on your PC. Then, you can access and view the contents of the wpa_supplicant.conf file to see your stored Wi-Fi password.

If you do have root access, try one of these methods:

  1. Install ES File Explorer and access Root Explorer. Tap Local > Device to see your device's root folder.

  2. Access the root folder, and navigate to misc > wifi to see the Wi-Fi security key in the wpa_supplicant.conf file.

  3. Alternatively, install an Android terminal emulator and issue the cat /data/misc/wifi/wpa_supplicant.conf command to view the file contents and see the network security key.

On an iPhone or iPad

Finding your stored network security key on an iPhone is much easier and doesn't require root access.

  1. Tap Settings > iCloud > Keychain. Make sure the Keychain toggle is in the On position.

    Apple ID, iCloud, Keychain buttons in iOS Settings
  2. Go back to Settings and turn on Personal Hotspot.

    iCloud Keychain, Personal Hotspot, toggle ON in iOS Settings

    On your Mac, connect to your iPhone's Personal Hotpot.

    Personal Hotspot connection on macOS
  3. Press the CMD and Space keys on your Mac to open the Searchlight utility. In the search field, type keychain access and press Enter.

    keychain Access search term in macOS
  4. Type the name of your Wi-Fi network (the SSID), then double-click the SSID.

    Finding the Personal Hotspot in Keychain Access app
  5. Select the Show Password checkbox. You might need to type your Mac's admin password to display the password.

    Show password checkbox on macOS

Find the Network Security Key on Windows

The easiest way to find your Wi-Fi password is if you've already connected to the network with your Windows 10 PC.

  1. Click the Start menu, and type Network Status. Select the Network status system settings utility.

  2. In the Network Status window, select Change adapter options.

    Change adapter options in Windows Settings
  3. In the Network Connections window, right-click the active Wi-Fi network adapter and select Status.

    Status for Wi-Fi adapter in Windows
  4. In the Wi-Fi Status window, select Wireless Properties to open the Wireless Network Properties window.

  5. Select Security. Then, under Network security key, select Show characters.

    Show characters checkbox in Wireless Network Properties

    This will reveal the network security key for your wireless network.

Find the Network Security Key On Your Mac

On a Mac, you'll find the network key (password) in Keychain Access.

  1. Open Finder and select Go > Utilities. Click Keychain Access.

    Utilities menu and Keychain Access app in macOS
  2. Select login, and scroll through the list of network connections to find your active network. If you don't see the active network, select System and find the active network there.

    Wi-Fi router password entry in Keychain Access

    On Mac OS X systems older than version 10.6.x, in the Keychains window, select All Items. Scroll through the list of network connections to find your active network.

  3. Under Name, select your active network. Under the Attributes tab, check Show password.

    Show Password checkbox in macOS
  4. Enter your Mac Administrator or Keychain password and select OK.

  5. Find the network password in the Show password field. 

Extra: Types of Network Security

Every secured network has a network security key, but not every network uses the same mode of security. Types of network security include:

  • WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy): Encrypts data between clients using a static encryption code.
  • WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access): Uses a unique packet-mixing function and integrity checks.
  • WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2): Uses a security protocol with pre-shared key (PSK) authentication. In the case of enterprise users, WPA2 uses an enterprise authentication server. 

You can check which security method is enabled by accessing your router.

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