How to Find My Network Key for a Wireless Router

by Jeff Grundy
The wireless access key for your router helps keep others from stealing bandwidth and viewing sensitive data sent over your network.

The wireless access key for your router helps keep others from stealing bandwidth and viewing sensitive data sent over your network.

A wireless router makes it easy to turn on Wi-Fi capable computers in your home or office and connect to the Internet without needing to worry about cumbersome or unsightly cables. Most wireless routers are compatible with common DSL or cable broadband connections and relatively simple to configure. With a single wireless router, you can create a Wi-Fi network capable of providing Internet access for all the computers at your location. One drawback with Wi-Fi networks is the possibility of intrusion by a hacker or other unauthorized user if not secured with a network key. If you forget the network encryption key and need to connect additional computers to the Internet, you must retrieve it from the router's control panel interface.

Inspect the outer edges of the router to determine if there is a sticker with the default encryption key or passphrase printed on it. While most Wi-Fi routers ship with wireless security disabled, a few manufacturers do enable the protocol on select models. If the manufacturer enabled security at the factory, and you did not change the default key, you might find it on a label affixed to the router.

Go to a computer that connects to the router with an RJ-45 Ethernet cable -- or a wireless computer on which you previously entered the correct key and still has an active connection to the router. Open a Web browser on the computer and type the IP address used for accessing the router's administrative control panel into the address bar. Although the control panel IP address varies by router, values such as "," "" and "" are common. If you do not know the default IP address for your router's control panel page, look for it in the device user guide or manual.

Log in to the router control panel by entering the administrator username and password in the corresponding fields and clicking the "Login" button. Again, refer to the user guide for the router if you do not know the default administrator username and password for the device. Common usernames include "Admin" and "Administrator," while the default password might be "password" or "1234."

Click the “Wireless," "Wireless Network," "Wi-Fi Settings" or other similarly named tab or menu option in the router control panel. Select "Wireless Security Settings," "Wireless Network Configuration" or another appropriately named menu option that allows you to configure security options for your Wi-Fi network.

Locate the field or value on the Wireless Security Settings or Wireless Settings tab or page labeled "Passphrase," "Password," "Wireless Key" or "Encryption Key." The correct passphrase or key needed to access the wireless router and the network should appear in that field. Record the passphrase or key so that you can enter it on other computers you want to connect to the router wirelessly.

Exit the router control panel and close the Web browser.

Go to a computer that you want to connect to the wireless router. Click the wireless icon located next to the time and date display on the Windows taskbar. A pop-up menu that displays a list of nearby wireless networks appears above the taskbar.

Select the SSID or network name of your local Wi-Fi network from the pop-up list, then click "Connect." Enter the encryption key or passphrase you retrieved from the router when prompted and then click the "Connect” button again. After a few seconds, Windows receives an IP address from the router and the wireless signal icon on the taskbar displays a wireless signal strength meter instead of an "X" or yellow exclamation point. This indicates that you can now use the wireless computer to surf the Internet or browse the local network normally. Use the key to enable wireless access on other systems as needed.


  • If you changed the default password for the router and then forgot it, you can reset the router to factory defaults by pressing the "Reset" button on the back of the router. If you reset the router, though, you must configure or create a new Wi-Fi encryption key on the wireless settings page of the control panel. On some models, you may have to use a paper clip or ballpoint pen to press the Reset button, as it might be inside a recessed hole in the back wall of the router casing.

Items you will need

  • Router user guide or manual

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images