How To Connect to WiFi without WiFi Password
Older readers may remember a time when it was fairly common for WiFi networks not to have password protection at all; anyone who came along could just log onto the network. This was in the days when WiFi networks were pretty rare, smartphones didn’t have WiFi, tablets hadn’t been invented yet, and the only time someone would bring a new computer into your network would be a houseguest with a notebook computer, or maybe a friend bringing over a rig to do some multiplayer FPS gaming. Having to trot out a password every time was a hassle, and with nobody trying to steal WiFi, there wasn’t any real need to protect your network. So a lot of people didn’t.
Well, that has certainly changed! Nowadays pretty much everybody has a smartphone in their pocket, and pretty much everybody with Internet service uses a WiFi network to share that service to all the devices in their home or workplace. The vast majority of WiFi networks are password-protected. However, for the sake of convenience, manufacturers have created several ways for a guest user to get onto the network without knowing a password. In this article, I will detail several of these methods and walk you through getting connected to WiFi without the password.
Please note, however, that it is violation of good manners (and quite possibly the law) to gain access to someone’s WiFi network without their permission. Make sure that you have the permission of the network owner before you use any of these methods.
WPS stands for WiFi Protected Setup. WPS is a security standard that functions on networks using the WPA Personal or WPA2 Personal security protocols. Stripped of the technobabble, WPS means that if a WiFi router is located in a place that is physically accessible to guests, the guest can create a network connection to the router by pushing a button on the router, rather than by entering a password.
WPS is a very common method of connecting guest users in a home or small office environment. Since people outside the building or set of rooms don’t have physical access to the router, they have no way of surreptitiously stealing WiFi service; only people you have invited in will be able to get onto your WiFi network. It is far easier to tap a button on the router’s control panel than it is to enter a 16-digit random security code on a smartphone’s tiny keyboard.
Using WPS is very simple. Generally all you will need to do is make sure you have the right settings on your smartphone or other guest device, and make sure that you can access the router physically. I will provide the instructions for using a smartphone; the exact steps may vary slightly depending on your operating system and version.
- Launch the “Settings” app from the Home screen.
- Navigate to the network and internet settings section.
- Tap “WiFi”.
- Tap the WiFi settings tab or menu.
- Tap the “Advanced” button.
- Tap the “Connect by WPS Button” option.
- A dialog should open telling you to push the WPS button on the router. You have about 30 seconds to do this before the WPS handshake protocol will shut down and you’ll have to repeat this step. Push the WPS button; it is usually very clearly labeled with “WPS”.
- Your phone will automatically connect to the WiFi network, and you shouldn’t have to repeat these steps unless you tell your device to forget about this WiFi connection.
For some routers, there is a WPS PIN instead of a button; you’ll need to tap that option in your Internet settings and then enter the PIN, which is usually found on a sticker on the router.
WPS is a very handy and practical method of connecting to a WiFi network without a password, it is reliable, and works on almost every Android or Windows device. Unfortunately Apple basically refuses to support the WPS standard, making life more difficult for their users (as usual).
Router Guest Mode
Another option for sharing WiFi connectivity with guests without the hassle of passwords is for you, as the network administrator, to set up a guest network on your router. Nearly all modern routers support the guest network feature, and you can leave the password blank on the guest network (or have a very simple password which is easily entered and shared). The downside of a guest network with no password or an easily guessed trivial password is that it is not very secure if you are in proximity to people. It’s probably fine for your mountaintop cabin, however. Guest networks will work for any device type.
Follow these steps to set up a guest network on your router:
- Open your computer’s browser and paste your router’s IP address into the address bar. Commonly, the address will be either 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1. The IP address is almost always printed somewhere on your router.
- Use your administrator credentials to log into the router.
- Once you’ve logged in, you’ll need to locate the “Guest Network” option. You are likely to find it in the “Wireless Settings” section.
- Find and enable “Guest Network”.
- Next, name your guest network (enter its SSID – we recommend using the regular network name and adding “- Guest”) and set the password. You can opt for something as simple as “ourhouse” or “guest-password”. You can also leave it blank.
- Click the “Save” button to confirm the settings and create the network.
One other nice feature of a guest network is that you can (via your router’s control panel software) throttle the bandwidth for the guest network, so that your houseguests or neighbor kids can’t do their 50-gigabyte torrenting on your account.
If you’d like to access someone’s WiFi network or let them use yours without using passwords, you can always use QR codes instead. Bear in mind that the QR code method is a bit involved and requires some technical acumen. Honestly, it would be easier to write the password down and give it to your guest, but for some people this is a better solution. Here are the basic steps to sharing someone’s Wi-Fi using QR code scanning.
- Launch the browser on your friend’s computer and go to the QR Stuff QR code generator.
- You will see the data type menu on the left side of the screen. Click the radio button next to the “Wifi Login” option.
- After that, have the network owner enter the network name (SSID) and password. They should also select the network type from the drop-down menu.
- When the site generates a QR code, print it on a blank piece of paper.
- Launch any QR code scanning app on your phone. If you don’t have this kind of app, download and install one from Google Play; this one is very popular, well-reviewed, and free. If you have an iPhone, the built-in camera app will do the trick.
- Scan the code with your phone. This should automatically connect you to the Wi-Fi network.
Alternatively, you can download a third-party app and convert the QR code into an NFC tag. Here’s how it’s done with the WiFiKeyShare app.
- Download the app from Google Play on your friend’s phone.
- Once the download is complete, launch the app.
- Let your friend enter their network’s parameters to generate the QR code.
- When the code appears, tap the NFC tab to see its NFC equivalent.
- Send the NFC tag to your own phone. You should be able to connect to the WiFi network without problems, as all Android versions from Lollipop 5.0 and newer support NFC tags.
There are ways to share the WiFi network even if one is reluctant to share the password. Using these methods can help you be a gracious host without endangering the safety of your home network.
Want more WiFi resources?
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Need a BIG wireless network? See our guide to the best outdoor WiFi extenders and antennas.
Here’s our tutorial on picking the right channel on your 5 GHz WiFi network.
Got squatters? Here’s our walkthrough on how to kick off unwanted users of your WiFi network.