How to Find the Encryption Key for a Wireless Network on Windows XP

by Randall Blackburn

The Windows XP operating system hides the encryption keys for all wireless networks. The encryption keys, also known as network passphrases, are covered by a series of asterisks when you view your wireless connections. However, you can find the encryption key by logging on to the router’s administrative interface and checking the Wireless Settings for the network.

Open a Web browser, type the IP address for the router interface into the address bar, and then press “Enter.” The IP address for the router is either or, depending on the brand. Generally, Linksys routers use and Netgear routers use

Log in to the router’s interface with administrator’s credentials. For Linksys routers, leave the administrator user ID field blank and use the default password “admin” (without the quotes). For Netgear routers, the administrator user ID is “admin” and the password is “password” by default (again, without the quotes).

Click the “Wireless” tab, and then click the “Wireless Security” option on the top navigation bar in the Linksys interface. For the Netgear interface, click the “Wireless Settings” option in the left navigation menu. The Wireless configuration page opens.

Scroll down the Wireless Settings or Wireless Security page and locate the encryption key. The encryption key is listed next to either the “Key 1“ entry or the “WPA Shared Key” entry, depending on the type of security configured for the router. WEP encryption is listed as the "Key 1" entry and WPA/WPA2 security is listed as the "WPA Shared Key."


  • You can reset the router back to factory default settings by pressing and holding the “Reset” button on the router for five seconds. Resetting the router reverts the login information back to the factory defaults and deletes existing security keys.
  • For 2Wire routers, the default WEP encryption key is printed on a label on the bottom of the router.

About the Author

Randall Blackburn has worked for several Fortune 1000 companies as a technical writer over the past seven years. He has produced a wide variety of technical documentation, including detailed programming specifications and research papers. Randall has also acquired several years' experience writing web content. Randall lives and works in Austin, TX.

Photo Credits

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