Password Management for Home Network Routers

Choose a good password for your router

router cables plugged in

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Home broadband routers provide configuration functions to set up and manage a local network. To protect routers and their networks from malicious attacks, owners must log in with a password before they can change or see the configuration settings. Router passwords are highly effective security aids when used correctly.

Default Router Passwords

Manufacturers of broadband routers build their products with preset (default) passwords. Some router vendors assign the same default password across all their products, while others use a few different variations depending on the model.

Whether you purchase a router directly from the manufacturer or through a retail outlet, the router’s password is set to the same default. Millions of routers sold around the world from various vendors use the password admin, the most common default choice.

The majority of routers ship with the default password admin or none (a blank field for the password) paired with a default username of admin or none.

Find the default password for your router:

Change the Router Password

Default passwords for all mainstream routers are public information and are posted on the internet. Hackers use this information to log in to routers and take over networks. To improve network security, change the default passwords on your router when you bring a new one into your home.

To change a router password, log in to the router’s console with its current password, choose a new password value, and find the location inside the console screens to configure the new value. Exact details vary depending on the kind of router involved, but all routers provide a user interface for this purpose.

Some routers support an advanced feature that causes a password to expire automatically after a set number of days, forcing owners to change it periodically. Security experts recommend using this feature as well as choosing strong router passwords that are tough for others to guess.

Changes to the router password do not affect the ability of other devices in the home to connect to the router.

Recover Forgotten Router Passwords

Routers don’t show the password needed to access it. If a router password is lost or forgotten, recover the router password using software or with a password reset.

Recover a Router Password Using Software

Third-party software utilities, called password recovery tools, uncover forgotten passwords. Some of these tools run on Windows PCs and others are designed to work with routers.

The most popular password recovery tools implement mathematical techniques including dictionary attacks to generate as many different password combinations as possible until they guess the right one. Some people refer to this type of tool as cracker software because this approach is popular with network hackers.

You can safely run password recovery tools on your own routers. Never introduce the software to other networks; there may be legal consequences.

Password recovery tools may take many days to recover the password, depending on the choice of tool and how easy or difficult the password is to crack.

Alternative software utilities such as RouterPassView scan a router for passwords stored in backup locations of the router memory instead of running algorithms. Compared to password recovery tools, these scanning tools run much faster but are less likely to succeed.

Recover a Router Password With a Reset

The hard reset procedure provides an alternative to router password recovery than the software options. Resetting the router erases the password and starts a new configuration. To hard reset a router, turn the unit off and on while following a sequence of steps.

The 30-30-30 hard reset rule for routers works for most types, but specific router models may support other variations. Powering a router off and on by itself (a soft reset procedure) does not erase passwords. The extra steps of a hard reset must also be followed. A router hard reset erases saved passwords, wireless keys, and other configuration data, all of which must be reconfigured by an administrator.

The 30-30-30 router reset, which returns a router to its factory default condition, takes 90 seconds:

  1. With the router turned on, press and hold the Reset button for 30 seconds.

    Press and hold the Reset button for the entire 90 seconds it takes to complete the hard reset.

  2. Unplug the router for 30 seconds.

  3. Turn on the router and continue to press the Reset button for 30 seconds.

  4. Release the Reset button.

After you reset the router, log in with the original default password, found on the manufacturer's website or the device documentation. Then, change the default password to a strong password and store the new password in a safe place.