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

An image of logging into a network

A network security key is a code or passphrase that lets you connect your computer or mobile device to a private network.

What Is a Network Security Key?

Every secured network will have a network security key, but not every network uses the same kind of security.

  • 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 currently enabled, and find your network security key, by accessing your router.

How Do You Find Your Network Security Key? 

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

  1. Menu systems vary between router brands, but most show your network SSID and network security key on the main page.

    Screenshot of a router main screen showing network security key
  2. If it isn't displayed on the main screen, you can find the Wi-Fi password by finding Connection or Wi-Fi in the navigation menu. The Wi-Fi connection settings screen shows you the network security key.

    Screenshot of Wi-Fi connection settings in the router
  3. If you have access to the router, it's the fastest and easiest way to find the passphrase or encryption key.

Find the Network Security Key On Your Phone

If you want to save time, you can view the stored network security key on your Android or iPhone.

On Android

There are several ways to locate the saved network security key on your Android.

  1. Install ES File Explorer and access the Root Explorer feature. Tap Local and Device to see your device's root folder. You can access the root folder, and navigate to misc and wifi to see the Wi-Fi security key in the wpa_supplicant.conf file. This option requires root access, so it won't work for most users.

  2. Another option is to 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. Again, root access is required.

  3. The best option without root is to install and connect Minimal ADB and Fastboot on your PC. Once you're connected to your Android, you can access and view the contents of the wpa_supplicant.conf file to see your stored Wi-Fi password.

On iPhone or iPad

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

  1. Access your iPhone Settings menu, tap iCloud, and tap on Keychain. This enables the keychain feature.

    Apple ID, iCloud, Keychain buttons in iOS Settings
  2. Go back to the Settings menu and enable 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 on the SSID.

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

    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 on 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. This will open the Wireless Network Properties window.

  5. Select the Security tab, and enable the Show characters checkbox under the Network security key field.

    Show characters checkbox in Wireless Network Properties
  6. This will reveal the network security key for your wireless network.

Find the Network Security Key On Your Mac

Accessing the password for your network on your Mac is just as simple. On Mac, the network key is located in Keychain Access.

Here's how you can find it.

  1. Select Go and select Utilities, then select 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 the Network Name for your active network. Under the Attributes tab, select the checkbox next to Show password.

    Show Password checkbox in macOS
  4. You will need to enter your Mac Administrator or Keychain password to see the network password. Enter it and select OK.

  5. You can find the network password in the Show password field. 

Keep Your Wi-Fi Password Safe

It's very easy to find your network security key from any device connected to your network. Most people do this to give the password to visitors. However, a more secure option is to create a guest wireless network for that purpose.