By Dan Moren
February 16, 2016 11:48 AM PT
Quick Tip: Retrieve a forgotten password for a Wi-Fi network
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Surely this has happened to you1: You’re on a protected Wi-Fi network and somebody asks you for the password to log on, but you can’t remember what it is. It’d be great if you could just easily look up that password and hand it over, right?
Fortunately, if you’re on your Mac, you can–as long as you’ve stored said password in your keychain by selecting the “Remember this network” option when you joined.2 Here’s how.
In the Utilities subfolder of Applications you’ll find a handy app called Keychain Access. Open that sucker up and type the name of the network you’re currently on–which you can find by clicking on the Wi-Fi icon in your menu bar or going to the Network system preference pane–in the search box at the top right. You should see at least one option for an “AirPort network password” pop up3.
Double-click on the entry and you’ll get a little more information. Click the checkbox next to “Show password” and you’ll be prompted to enter the password for the keychain (which is likely the same as your user account’s password). Once you’ve done that, the network password will appear as plaintext in that field. Copy and paste it, write it on a piece of paper, read it to somebody–go nuts.
Alternatively, when you’re in that list of entries, you can also right-click on the entry and choose Copy Password to Clipboard. Once again, you’ll be prompted to enter your keychain password, but you can then go ahead and paste it anywhere.
Alas, you can’t currently do this on iOS, but if your iOS device is using iCloud Keychain and syncs with your Mac, you should still be able to retrieve any network passwords you’ve used on your iPhone or iPad via Keychain Access.
- Yes, Shirley, even you. ↩
- Obviously, if you stored it in a password manager like 1Password, just look it up in there instead. You don’t need me to tell you that. ↩
- You might see more than one entry, which is probably for one of two reasons: 1) it’s a network with a generic name, like “linksys” or 2) the password for the current network has changed over time. The former simply requires some trial and error, but if it’s the latter, just sort the entries by Date Modified and choose the most recent. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at email@example.com. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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