Today’s Q&A is from a TechJunkie reader who wants to know ‘What do I do if I can’t find my WiFi username and password?’ This is a very common issue and usually has a simple answer. I’ll show you a couple of ways you can find out.
Having multiple devices and networks is all very well until it comes to remembering all the logins for them. I use dozens of websites, two phones, a tablet, a smart TV, two computers and a laptop across one network with two subdomains. Each one has a password to log in and an SSID and password to join a network. These even before you being logging in to web apps and social networks!
Where the user has asked for username for their WiFi, what they actually mean is SSID. You only need a username if you’re logging in to a router or modem. So where you see ‘password’, read network SSID.
Locate your WiFi SSID and password
If you do forget your WiFi SSID and password and have used the network previously, we can pull the logs within Windows and Mac OS to identify it. This only works if you have used the network previously but can also be useful if you want the credentials to join a new device.
While you do need to have been a member of the network to pull the WiFi SSID and password, you can still use the credentials to join a new device. You just pull the details from the computer and then type them into your new device.
Identify WiFi SSID and password in Windows
The fastest way to identify the WiFi SSID and password in Windows is to use a command prompt.
- Right click an empty space on the Windows Task bar and select Task Manager.
- Select File and Run new task.
- Check the box next to ‘Create this task with administrator privileges’ and type ‘CMD’ into the window. Hit OK.
- Type ‘netsh wlan show profile’. This will bring up a list of every WiFi network you have ever joined. This will show you the SSID.
- Type ‘netsh wlan show profile “SSID” key=clear’. Where you see SSID, type the network name identified in Step 4. This will give you the password of that network.
Remember, this only works if you have already been a member of that network. It won’t work if you have never used it.
Identify WiFi SSID and password in Mac OS
The process is very similar in Mac OS. We use Terminal to input similar commands to retrieve the network logs that contain the WiFi SSID and password.
- Open a Terminal window in Mac OS.
- Type ‘defaults read /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.airport.preferences |grep SSIDString’. This will list all wireless networks you have ever joined along with router names.
- Type ‘security find-generic-password -ga “ROUTER” | grep “password:”’. Where you see ROUTER, you need to type the name of your wireless router.
The password will be listed in the Terminal window.
Reset a router to default username and password
If you have never been a member of a particular WiFi network and need to join it, your options are limited. You really only have two options, find the little card that comes with your modem or router with the login details or reset the device. Sometimes the default login is on a sticker underneath the device. It depends on the device and your ISP.
There are third party tools that can scan and hack WiFi passwords but these need specialist knowledge. Plus, WPA2 passwords can be very tricky to hack.
If you need to reset a router or modem, here’s how. This will reset any network changes or configurations you made but will let you access the device and return your network username and password to defaults. Those defaults are usually ‘admin’ for the username and ‘password’ for the password.
- Locate the reset button on the rear or side of the device. It is often helpfully labeled ‘Reset’ but not always.
- Press and hold that button for a few seconds. Some routers will flash their lights to tell you it worked, some won’t.
- Allow the router to reboot and reload the default config.
- Log in using ‘admin’ and ‘password’
- Reset the password as most usernames are hard coded.
- Write down that password somewhere safe!
It is all too easy to lose usernames and passwords without writing them down. At least now you know how to recover them should you need to.
Know of any other ways to find a WiFi username and password without resetting the router? Tell us about them below if you do!