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How to Find Your Saved Wi-Fi Passwords in Windows

How to Find Your Saved Wi-Fi Passwords in Windows 

Your PC holds many secrets. Some of them are built right into the operating system, and we try to uncover them here. Others are put there by you. Specifically, I'm talking about your saved passwords such as those for Wi-Fi networks.

The Easy Way

If you're running Windows 7 or later Microsoft lets you view the password for the network you're currently connected to. We'll cover the instructions for finding your password based on Windows 10, but the method will be similar for earlier versions of the OS.
Get started by right-clicking the Wi-Fi icon on the far right of the taskbar. Next, select Open Network and Sharing Center from the context menu. 

Windows: The Secret Keeper

The thing is, once you share these secrets with Windows it doesn't like to give them up. That can be a problem if you've forgotten your password and want to share it with someone else, or simply want to transfer your passwords to a new PC.
The good news is there are several methods you can use to uncover your saved Wi-Fi passwords when you need to.  

The Control Panel

This will open a new Control Panel window. In the Control Panel you should see at the top of the window and to the right a blue link that says "Wi-Fi" and the name of your router. Click that blue link. 

Wi-Fi Status

This will open the Wi-Fi Status window. Now click the Wireless Properties button. 

Reveal Your Password

This opens yet another window with two tabs. Click on the one called Security. Then click the Show characters check box to reveal your password in the "Network security key" text entry box. Copy down your password and you're done. 

The Slightly Harder Way

Windows 10's built-in method for uncovering passwords is great, but what if you want to find a password for a network you're not currently connected to?
For that, we'll need some help from third-party software. There are a number of options you can use, but the one we prefer is Magical Jelly Bean's Wi-Fi Password Revealer. This company also makes a product key finder that works well for finding the activation code for Windows in versions XP, 7, and 8. 

Watch Out for Bundleware

Password Revealer is a free, dead easy program to use that will tell you everything you need to know about the Wi-Fi networks your PC has used in the past. The one tricky thing about this program is that if you're not careful it will also download and install an extra program (AVG Zen, at this writing). This is a sponsored download, and it's how the company supports its free offerings, but for the end user it's incredibly annoying.
All you have to do is make sure you take it slow when installing Wi-Fi Password Revealer (read every screen carefully!). When you come to the screen offering you a free trial of some other program just uncheck the box to install and continue as normal. 

The Password List

Once you've installed the program, it should start-up straight away. If it doesn't you'll find it under Start > All apps (All programs in earlier versions of Windows).
Now you'll see a small window listing every single Wi-Fi network your computer has saved to its memory complete with passwords. The listing is pretty easy to read, but just to be clear the name of the Wi-Fi network is listed in the "SSID" column and the passwords is in the "password" column.

Right-click to Copy

To copy a password, click on the cell containing the password you want, right-click, and then from the context menu that appears select Copy selected password.
Sometimes you may see passwords prepended with the word "hex." This means the password has been converted into hexadecimal digits. If that's the case you may not be able to retrieve the password. That said, you should still try to use the "hex" password as sometimes the password hasn't actually been converted at all.

Learn More

That's about all there is to Wi-Fi Password Revealer. If you're interested, this little utility tells you more than just the name and password of each Wi-Fi network your PC has stored. It can also tell you about the authentication type it uses (WPA2 is preferred), as well as the type of encryption algorithm, and the connection type. Diving into that information is really getting into the weeds of networking.

How to Share Wi-Fi Network Passwords in Windows 10

Microsoft added an interesting new feature in Windows 10 called Wi-Fi Sense that lets you silently share Wi-Fi passwords with your friends. Previously a Windows Phone-only feature, Wi-Fi Sense uploads your passwords to a Microsoft server and then distributes them to your friends. The next time they come within range of that network, your home Wi-Fi router say their Windows 10 PC or Windows mobile device will connect automatically with no need to worry about passwords.
It's an incredibly convenient way to share Wi-Fi network passwords if you find yourself doing that far too often. But it does come with some issues you should be aware of. Here are the details.

Getting Started With Wi-Fi Sense

Wi-Fi Sense should be on by default on your Windows 10 PC, but to check that it's active click on the Start button and then select Settings.
Once the Settings app is open go to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage Wi-Fi settings. Now you're on the Wi-Fi Sense screen. At the top are two slider buttons that you can turn on or off.
The first one labeled Connect to suggested open hotspots, allows you to connect automatically to public Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots come from a crowd-sourced database managed by Microsoft. That's a helpful feature if you travel a lot, but it's not related to the feature that lets you share login authentication with friends.
The second slider, labeled Connect to networks shared by my contacts, is what allows you to share with friends. Once you turn that on, you can choose from three networks of friends to share with including your contacts, Skype, and Facebook. You can choose all three or just one or two of them.

You Go First

Once that's done, it's time to start sharing Wi-Fi networks. Now here's the thing about Wi-Fi Sense sharing. Before you can receive any shared Wi-Fi networks from your friends, you first have to share a Wi-Fi network with them.
Wi-Fi Sense is not an automated service: It is opt-in in the sense that you have to elect to share a Wi-Fi network with your friends. The Wi-Fi network passwords your PC knows will not be automatically shared with others. In fact, you can only share Wi-Fi passwords using consumer-grade technology—any corporate WI-Fi networks with extra authentication cannot be shared.
Once you do share a network login, however, any networks shared by your friends will be available to you.
Staying on the screen at Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage Wi-Fi settings, scroll down to the sub-heading Manage known networks. Click on any of your networks listed here with a Not shared tag and you'll see a Share button. Select that and you'll be asked to enter the network password for that Wi-Fi access point to confirm you know it. Once that's done, you'll have shared your first network and are now able to receive shared networks from others.

The Lowdown on Sharing Passwords

So far throughout this tutorial, we've said you're sharing your Wi-Fi password with others. That was mostly for the sake of clarity and simplicity. More precisely your password is uploaded to a Microsoft server over an encrypted connection. It is then stored by Microsoft in an encrypted form and sent to your friends back over an encrypted connection.
That password is then used in the background on your friends' PCs to connect to the shared network. Unless you have friends who have some serious hacking chops they will never see the actual password.
In some ways, Wi-Fi Sense is more secure than passing around a piece of paper to house guests since they never get to actually see or write down your password. However, to be of any use, your guests first have to be using Windows 10 and already sharing Wi-Fi networks via Wi-Fi Sense themselves. If not, Wi-Fi Sense will not help you.
That said, don't think that you'll be able to just turn on this feature and start using it on the spur of the moment. Microsoft says it takes a few days before your contacts will see shared networks on their PC. If you want to coordinate some Wi-Fi Sense sharing make sure you do it ahead of time.
One last thing to keep in mind is that Wi-Fi Sense sharing only works if you know the password. Any networks you share with your friends via Wi-Fi Sense cannot be passed on to others.
Wi-Fi Sense requires some very specific actions before it will be of any use, but if you have a group of friends that need to share network passwords Wi-Fi Sense can be a helpful tool—as long as you don't mind letting Microsoft manage your Wi-Fi passwords.

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