Tech Terms: What Is A Network Security Key? Diving In To Help You Find Yours

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Jane Taylor in Technology

14 January 2020, 07:29 GMT

If you've run into issues connecting your devices or surfing the internet, you may be wondering, "What is a network security key?” In this article, we’ll explain the tech term and dive into the topic to help you find yours in no time. 

Understanding important tech terms people commonly hear tossed around today like network security key and learning what this is can help you stay up to date in this ever-changing world. In this article, we’ll dive right in to help you learn everything you need to know on your quest to discover what is a network security key and help you find yours in moments.

What is a Network Security Key and Why Does it Matter?

So, what is a network security key, and why is it essential for you to know what it is? A network security key is a password you use for your internet network or wireless network (Wi-Fi). It basically connects all your devices to your router through a signal that allows you to surf the internet. The password or phrase could be any combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and it’s used to authenticate with your home network to establish a secure wireless connection with your router.

The key or Wi-Fi password is established initially when your internet service provider first sets up your internet connections, which is why they can be hard to remember. With this key, you can prove that you're the person that's authorized to make significant changes on your network and secure your identity.

The router you use may determine how the network security key is displayed and how you find it. Each router is different, and each come with their own terminology and location. Common router companies include the following, all of which offer online manuals with instructions:

  1. Linksys
  2. D-Link
  3. ASUS
  4. TP-Link
  5. Netgear​​​​

Keep in mind that your router type and model number may also change along with the brand. Searching for more specific information involving your network security key with your particular router can be helpful when troubleshooting.

Sometimes your computer may forget the saved network security key and ask you to reenter the code, or someone in your house may change the code without alerting you to update it on your device yet. If this happens, you’ll no longer be able to connect to the internet or access internet-based files or programs on your computer until you enter the code.

You may also need to find your network security key if you want to connect a new device such as a laptop or smartphone to your network, which allows you to access the internet. Every new device that wants to join your network will need the code.

What Does a Network Security Key Do for Me?

Understanding the basic terminology your computer throws at you can allow you to better speak with your devices and become a savvy, modern person. Tech skills not only directly translate into the business world, allowing you to work smarter rather than harder, they also help you keep up with growing innovations in technology.

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How to Find Your Network Security Key

Look at your router. The network security key is clearly labeled on the router, but your router will vary based on the company you purchase your internet service from. If you never updated the password that the internet company gave you when you signed up for service or reset your router since then, you should have the password listed on the router as well.

The key may not be listed under “network security key,” however, as that would take up too much space on the router. To find your network security key, look for any of the following terms:

  1. WEP Key
  2. Security Key
  3. Wireless Key
  4. Passphrase
  5. WPA Key
  6. WPA 2 Key

If you don’t see this information on your router, you might find it with the documentation your service provider gave you when you got the router. The paperwork should have the key listed. However, if you can’t find it in the documentation or on your router, you can find the key based on the type of operating system you have.

Common operating systems include:

  1. Windows 7, 8, RT, or 10
  2. Macintosh

Another scenario that may take more work involves finding your Wi-Fi password when you recently bought a new router and can’t remember the password. A new access point or router will come with a preset network security key you can use located on the label at the bottom or back of the device. Again, you may need to look for a similar phrase such as password, key, wireless password, or WPA key.

How to Find Your Network Security Key Based on Your Operating System

If you already have one of your devices connected to your network and your computer automatically remembers the password, you can look in the PC to access the key. Many people look there first to find out if they can simply write down the key to manually store it elsewhere in the future.

However, if you don’t have a device that remembers the password or the password is encrypted with characters for security, you’ll need to search for your network security key based on your operating system type.

Use the following step-by-step directions to find your network security key:


Start by clicking on the Start button and opening your control panel. Look for “Network and Internet” and then click on “View network status and tasks.” From there, you can click “manage wireless networks” to find the name of your wireless network (which is also helpful if you don’t know who your service provider is).

The menu that opens from there will allow you to right-click and select “Properties.” You want to go to the Security tab and check the option that says “Show characters” to see password-protected network security keys. Your password should be visible from there.


Depending on the type of device you use, open the Charms bar to select settings. Keep your eye out for the wireless icon and click on it to see the name of your wireless network. If you right-click on your service provider’s name, you can select “View Connection Properties” and choose “Security.”

Then, check the "Show characters" option to find your network security key. The process is pretty straightforward.


Like the above steps, hit “Start” and open up the “Network Connections” page. Scroll down the page and click on “Network and Sharing Center,” then access your Wireless network. Click on “Properties” and then go to the security tab to click “Show characters” and reveal your code.


Similar to Windows instructions, you can start finding your network security key on a Macintosh device by clicking “Go” located at the top of the screen and selecting “Utilities.” Simply double-click on “Keychain Access” to find your network listed out and check “Show password.”

The only difference here is that after checking “Show password,” a popup may ask for your Administrator password for further verification. This is an added security step designed to keep you and your information safe from harm.

Change the Network Security Key

After you have set up and used your given network security key for the first time, you can change your password. Doing so may help you remember your Wi-Fi password and allow you to personalize your security measures. There’s also the bonus of not having your password readily displayed for anyone to see immediately on the router.

However, be aware that if you change the password, you’ll need to write it down somewhere safe and then use the new code to reconnect all your devices. If you lose the password, don’t write it down, or can’t read your writing, finding your network security key can become more difficult.

To change your Wi-Fi password, make sure you come up with a strong and secure password that no one could guess. Each router or access point is created differently, and the process of creating a password is different for each device.

To change your Wi-Fi password, make sure you come up with a strong and secure password that no one could guess. Each router or access point is created differently, and the process of creating a password is different for each device. However, you can begin the process by thinking up a new code and writing down your router’s IP address, which may look something like

You can look up the step-by-step instructions in your router manual or complete a quick internet search to find specific information for resetting your network security key. Most routers will require you to start by opening your browser and typing in your IP address into the address bar. Press enter and the login page of your router will display login credentials. From there, you can find a page called wireless security or settings. Some routers simply list it as “Wireless.” Select wireless and change the key.

A strong password should have:

  1. No less than ten characters.
  2. At least one symbol.
  3. At least one number.

Lastly, all you must do is reconnect all your devices using the new password and you’re all set. Just don’t forget the new key.

A Final Word

If you’re still having trouble locating or learning what you need to know on the question “what is a network security key,” there are several tech companies willing and ready to answer your questions.

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