Can't Find WiFi Network Key

I’m currently visiting my mother. I want to use the laptop my sister just gave me on mom’s wireless network. I’m pretty sure I need the network key to do so. Mom is perfectly willing to let me use the network (I’m on her laptop now), but her computer is set up to connect automatically without need to type the key and she has no clue what the key is. I’ve looked on her computer (Windows Vista) but can’t find where the key is stored.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Are you sure this is a secured network? In the list of wi-fi networks on your PC, the network listing will have a littly lock icon over the wi-fi signal strength icon, or the word “secured” will appear with the network name. Otherwise you can connect straight away. Also, make sure you’re connecting to the right network, and not one of her neighbors.

The key will typically be enrypted on the cient PCs - stored as ****** or some such - so you won’t be able to get it from your mom’s PC. The unencrypted key will be located on your mother’s router. You’ll need to access the router’s settings - from a computer connected to the router, point the browser to the default IP address for the router. Here’s a list of common default IP addresses by router brand.

You’ll then need to log into the router - if your mom’s changed the default login (hopefully she has) you need to get it from her. If she hasn’t changed the default, it’s usually a username/password combo of either admin/password or admin/admin. Once logged in, the key is usually found in the “wi-fi security” section.

Hope this helps.

ETA: What brand/model is your mother’s router?

On your Mother’s computer go to the Control Panel, Network and Sharing, and click on Manage Wireless Networks. Right-click on her SSID and select Properties. On the Security tab check the Show Characters box.

Is it printed on a label on the router itself?

Or you could do what yoyodyne suggests, if you value brevity and efficiency. But what’s the fun in that?

Seriously though - when I went to check my wireless settings, I didn’t have that option, but I’m on my work laptop right now, and I think that might be locked down so we can’t share our wireless keys.

The wireless key depends upon the type of security mode (if any) enabled on the router, and gets randomly generated when the security settings are enabled. I’ve not had a router ship with the key preconfigured.

Is that with your own router, though, or with one supplied by an ISP?

Certainly some ISPs pre-configure the keys for the routers they supply; this was the case with my current router.

And some ISPs print* the key on the label on the router itself; this is the case with my dad’s/stepmum’s router, and iIrc was the case with my old cable [sic] wireless router.

  • Or certainly used to print…

Sorry - I’ve never had an ISP-provided router. I was thinking of off-the-shelf routers.

Thank you for your help.

I still can’t connect. When I look at the wireless network on Mom’s computer it says the network is open and requires no authentication. The space for a network key has dots in it, but “show characters” is gray and unclickable.

When I look at the network on my laptop, it says that it is security enabled and requires a key.

Oh, I found an unsecured wireless network and logged on briefly to make sure my laptop can connect to a network and is in full working order.
eta the router was provided by the ISP.

Did you try unplugging the router and plugging it back in? Sometimes I can’t connect to my non-ISP-supplied router and a reboot fixes it up.

The router seems to be working. I’m connected to the wireless network now. It’s just that I can’t connect on my laptop, only on mom’s machine.

Doesn’t matter if the router seems to be working. I can have 4 machines working nicely on my router too but can’t get my laptop on the network unless I reboot. Just try it. If there actually is a password, mom’s computer will have it stored an will auto connect when the router comes back online. You’ve got nothing to lose.


They’re not encrypted, just obfuscated – meaning hidden from view, but not encoded in any special way.

Go back to this screen and use a program like Asterisk Key (there are many out there) to reveal the characters.

I usually follow A Crown Prince of Irony’s advice. Connect to the router’s admin page; most people have not changed the default password from admin/admin or admin/password. Once in, find the password settings and voila. To find the IP address of the router, I just run a traceroute from a Terminal/Command Prompt, and check the address of the first hop.

For example, when I type traceroute, I get:

1 ( 5.159 ms 1.134 ms 1.403 ms

And my router’s page is at

The key should be printed on the bottom of the router. Sounds like your just trying to connect to the internet via the router, not connect to a network your mom created.