How to Find Your Saved Wi-Fi Passwords on Windows

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 Your PC holds many secrets. Some of them are built right into the operating system, and we try to uncover them here. Others are put there by you. Specifically, I'm talking about your saved passwords such as those for Wi-Fi networks.

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Windows: The Secret Keeper

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The thing is, once you share these secrets with Windows it doesn't like to give them up. That can be a problem if you've forgotten your password and want to share it with someone else, or simply want to transfer your passwords to a new PC.

The good news is there are several methods you can use to uncover your saved Wi-Fi passwords when you need to. 

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The Easy Way

Windows 10 Taskbar

If you're running Windows 7 or later Microsoft lets you view the password for the network you're currently connected to. We'll cover the instructions for finding your password based on Windows 10, but the method will be similar for earlier versions of the OS.

Get started by right-clicking the Wi-Fi icon on the far right of the taskbar. Next, select Open Network and Sharing Center from the context menu.

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The Control Panel

Windows 10 Control Panel

This will open a new Control Panel window. In the Control Panel you should see at the top of the window and to the right a blue link that says "Wi-Fi" and the name of your router. Click that blue link.

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Wi-Fi Status

Wi-Fi Status Windows

This will open the Wi-Fi Status window. Now click the Wireless Properties button.

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Reveal Your Password

Wireless Network Properties

This opens yet another window with two tabs. Click on the one called Security. Then click the Show characters check box to reveal your password in the "Network security key" text entry box. Copy down your password and you're done.

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The Slightly Harder Way

Password entry field
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Windows 10's built-in method for uncovering passwords is great, but what if you want to find a password for a network you're not currently connected to?

For that we'll need some help from third-party software. There are a number of options you can use, but the one I prefer is Magical Jelly Bean's Wi-Fi Password Revealer. This company also makes a product key finder that works well for finding the activation code for Windows in versions XP, 7, and 8.

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Watch Out for Bundleware

Magical Jelly Bean Extra Download
Make sure you don't download unwanted software to your PC.

Password Revealer is a free, dead easy program to use that will tell you everything you need to know about the Wi-Fi networks your PC has used in the past. The one tricky thing about this program is that if you're not careful it will also download and install an extra program (AVG Zen, at this writing). This is a sponsored download, and it's how the company supports its free offerings, but for the end user it's incredibly annoying.

All you have to do is make sure you take it slow when installing Wi-Fi Password Revealer (read every screen carefully!). When you come to the screen offering you a free trial of some other program just uncheck the box to install and continue as normal.

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The Password List

Magical Jelly Bean Wi-Fi Password Revealer

Once you've installed the program, it should start-up straight away. If it doesn't you'll find it under Start > All apps (All programs in earlier versions of Windows).

Now you'll see a small window listing every single Wi-Fi network your computer has saved to its memory complete with passwords. The listing is pretty easy to read, but just to be clear the name of the Wi-Fi network is listed in the "SSID" column and the passwords is in the "password" column.

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Right-click to Copy

Magical Jelly Bean Wi-Fi Password Revealer 2

To copy a password, click on the cell containing the password you want, right-click, and then from the context menu that appears select Copy selected password.

Sometimes you may see passwords prepended with the word "hex." This means the password has been converted into hexadecimal digits. If that's the case you may not be able to retrieve the password. That said, you should still try to use the "hex" password as sometimes the password hasn't actually been converted at all. 

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Learn More

Wi-Fi router
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That's about all there is to Wi-Fi Password Revealer. If you're interested, this little utility tells you more than just the name and password of each Wi-Fi network your PC has stored. It can also tell you about the authentication type it uses (WPA2 is preferred), as well as the type of encryption algorithm, and the connection type. Diving into that information is really getting into the weeds of networking. But if that's your thing check out About.com's computer networking site for more tips and tutorials.