How to quickly view and recover forgotten Wi-Fi passwords in Windows

In order to keep our wireless networks safe from intruders we are encouraged to change our default passwords, replacing them with long, impossible to guess choices. That’s great from a security point of view, but it can be nightmare if you forget or mislay them.

Thankfully, your devices will store the logins for all of the wireless networks you connect to -- including those for hotels, airports and coffee shops -- but it’s not obvious how to view this information.

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If you're connected to the wireless network you want the password for (so you can connect to the same network using another laptop or phone for example), press Win+R in Windows to open a Run box and then type in ncpa.cpl and hit enter. This is the same for whichever version of Microsoft's operating you're running.

In the window that opens, double-click on the wireless network adaptor icon, click the Wireless Properties button and select the Security tab. Tick the Show characters box and this will reveal your network security key.

Another option you can use is the recently updated WirelessKeyView app from Nirsoft (version 2.21 now displays the key type of WPA3 items as WPA3-SAE). Run this -- no installation required -- and it will show you all of the keys that have been stored on your computer using the Wireless Zero Configuration service (Windows XP) or WLAN AutoConfig service (Windows Vista/7/8.x/10 and Windows Server 2008).

Photo credit: Marynchenko Oleksandr / Shutterstock

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