What is a Network Security Key and How Do I Use One?
A network security key is your WiFi password. It is the more formal terminology for the PIN or password you enter every time you log on to a WiFi network. It can be your home network, public WiFi or at work, the network doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you know the right password to be able to access the network.
Any wireless network that uses security, which in the ideal world should be all of them, will require a network security key. It is a prerequisite for wireless networks using WPA or WPA2 security and all enterprise networks using more advanced protocols. To confuse matters, the network security key can also be referred to as ‘network PIN’, ‘WPA key’, ‘WPA2 key’, ‘wireless PIN or key’, ‘WiFi PIN or key’ and probably other random names too.
All you really need to know is that all of these terms mean exactly the same thing.
How can I find my network security key?
If you’re in a public place like coffee shop, the WiFi key will be on the wall, on a menu or you can ask one of the staff. If you’re at work, ask a colleague or network administrator. If you’re at home, you have a few options.
In Windows 10:
- Right click the Windows Start button and select Settings.
- Select Network & Internet and select the Network and Sharing Center text link.
- Select Connections and select your WiFi network.
- Select WiFi Status and then Wireless Properties.
- Select Security and check the Show characters box.
Your key should now be displayed in the network security key box.
In Mac OS:
- Select Utilities and Keychain Access.
- Select your network from the list.
- Check the box next to Show Password.
You may have to enter your AppleID to confirm or you may not.
Android and iPhone are more problematic. As far as I know, you cannot display a network key in either phone without jailbreaking or using an app. There are no default ways to display the key without doing this. If you know different, let us know in the comments section.
Finding your network security key on your router
Finding your network security key on your router depends entirely on what router you use.
- On my Linksys WRT 1900ACS my network security key is in WiFi and WiFi Settings under WiFi Password.
- On a TP-Link router, your key is in Wireless and Wireless Security.
- On a Netgear router it is in Wireless in the Password box.
- On an Asus router it’s on the Router Setup page under Network Key.
- On a D-Link router the key is in Wireless Settings under Manual Wireless Network Setup and in the Pre-Shared Key box.
These settings may change as manufacturers introduce new firmware but they are correct at the time of writing. The network key will likely be blanked out and you will have to check a box or verify your login to show it in plain text, or not depending on the make and model of router.
What happens if you lose your network key?
If you have lost your home WiFi network key it really is nothing to worry about. It takes only a couple of minutes to get it from your router. If you cannot get it from your router, that isn’t an issue either. We can perform a factory reset to change it back to its default. You can them modify it as you see fit.
If you know your router login, just log into your router and use one of the methods above to show your network key. Remember it or write it down somewhere safe.
If you don’t know the router login, you have to perform a factory reset. This does mean you will need to set up a fresh password and reconfigure your router if you made any changes but you will be able to access wireless. You will need to find your router manual or do an internet search for factory reset and your router make and model.
Perform a factory reset and log in using the default credentials. Immediately change the admin password for the router itself and then set up your WiFi password using the same, or different password as necessary. Use WPA2 encryption if available and set a strong but memorable password. You can use your old one if you prefer as this means you won’t have to change it on all the devices that connect.
Network keys are an essential part of network security and are used all the time by this name or something else. It is vital to use strong passwords at all times and keep it as secure as you can. Not losing will always help too!