How to find your saved Wi-Fi network password stored in your Mac's Keychain

Posted:
in macOS
Wi-Fi passwords can be hard to remember, and sometimes difficult to reacquire if the router or the information is not easily accessible by users. If you have previously accessed the wireless network via a Mac, AppleInsider explains how you can rediscover the Wi-Fi password using Keychain Access.

find Wifi password entry macOS


In most cases, people can find out their Wi-Fi network's password quite easily, especially in the case of home routers which allow for the password to be changed through a software interface, or for some routers from Internet providers, printed on the side of the networking device. In a workplace, it could be as simple as asking technical support staff.

There are, however, situations where it is not possible to do any of these. For example, if you want to make a note of a distant Wi-Fi access point's password, so you can easily add another device to the Wi-Fi network at a later time.

One way to find out a saved Wi-Fi password is to search within the Keychain, as it is used to hold Wi-Fi passwords alongside other sensitive data. This guide covers how to look inside the keychain that specific password.

Searching by Wi-Fi network name

To manually look inside the keychain, you need the KeyChain Access application, which is available within the Utilities folder of the Applications folder. It can also be found by using the search bar in Finder for the term "Keychain Access" and defining the search to take place across This Mac.

  • keychain access utilities macOS
  • keychain access utilities macOS search


If you know the name of the Wi-Fi network, select Passwords under Category then click the search box and start to type in the network name until it appears on the main list. Depending on your Mac's setup, it may appear under both the System and iCloud keychains, so it could be worth looking in both listings in case there's a difference.

  • keychain access macOS find wifi password
  • keychain access macOS find wifi password


Double click the result you're interested in to bring up more details. Click the tickbox next to Show Password to bring up an authentication box, in which you need to enter your password and click OK.

keychain access macOS find wifi password


In some cases, such as accessing the details in the System keychain, an extra authentication box will appear asking for the user name and password for an administrator. Again, enter the required user name and password details, and click Allow.

keychain access macOS find wifi password authentication


You will be returned to the Wi-Fi network's listing, with the password visible in its textbox.

keychain access macOS find wifi password

General searches

If you're not entirely sure what the Wi-Fi network name is, but you are certain the Mac has accessed it in the past, it is still possible to find out the probable password.

Bring up Keychain Access as before, make sure Passwords is selected as the Category, and instead of searching for the name, type "airport n" into the search box. KeyChain will bring up a list of all Wi-Fi networks the Mac has previously accessed, including the last time it was modified.

keychain access macOS find wifi


Peruse the list to see if a name jogs your memory or seems like the most plausible one, then continue as above for discovering the password.

Further Notes

While this is useful for rediscovering forgotten Wi-Fi passwords (and any other password stored in the Keychain), it is only useful if the Wi-Fi network in question has previously been accessed.

If both System and iCloud keychains provide results for a Wi-Fi hotspot name, and you own multiple macOS or iOS devices under the same iCloud account, err towards checking the iCloud keychain first. As iCloud synchronizes the details across all devices under your control, if the password for the network has recently changed and it has been altered on another of your devices first, the iCloud version will be correct while the local version is incorrect.

At the point when the password is visible, it is also possible to update it if it is incorrect. Simply type in the new password and click the activated Save Changes button.

Lastly, if you are looking up the password in order to provide it to another person, there are other ways to provide the details. Both High Sierra and iOS 11 include a facility to share the password with a nearby and trusted guest device, without needing to remember it or type the password in.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    Has anyone else noticed that when looking up a password in this way that was shared from an iOS device, the listed password is a long string of random numbers and letters and not the one typed into the iOS device even though the network can be accessed? It's like the real password i scrambled or something. I wonder if this is intentional, perhaps to provide network access to other users without revealing your password, or if it's a bug.
    macseekerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    somewhat related tip:
    latest version of macOS/iOS will automatically offer up sharing a wifi password to other users attempting to login to secure wifi if they are within bluetooth range. 
    stanthemanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 9
    a better article would of been make sure you erase your pram when you sell your mac , because thats another place where macs store wifi passwords. try it sometime.
    erase your hard disk completely, and do an internet restore , and it will connect to your wifi!! and if you do a pram reset, it will then ask you for the login credentials because
    they were erased!!!

    as far as mongo bongos reply goes. need more info. maybe youre talking about the hash????

    when you connect to a wifi network , its not really the password that connects you to the wifi network. its the mathematical hash of the wifi password combined with your network name (ssid ) . for example, a wifi network name of appleinsider, and a password " appleinsiderpassword ", generates a hash of " e70f772ac2efd170dc485b19f19ac9a237cdbfbdc816a402fd5a3d9b08a94c52 " and its that hexicimal string that actually connects you to the wifi network. 

    this is why you don't use common SSID names like "NETGEAR" because those hash tables are available or download

    the hash as i call it, is actually called the PRE SHARED KEY. the preshared key can be used as the password. if someone asks you for your wifi password, give them the key instead. and it will work. i use PSKs all the time, because it saves me from typing special characters 






    edited April 19 stanthemanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 9
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,303administrator
    a better article would of been make sure you erase your pram when you sell your mac , because thats another place where macs store wifi passwords. try it sometime.
    erase your hard disk completely, and do an internet restore , and it will connect to your wifi!! and if you do a pram reset, it will then ask you for the login credentials because
    they were erased!!!

    as far as mongo bongos reply goes. need more info. maybe youre talking about the hash????

    when you connect to a wifi network , its not really the password that connects you to the wifi network. its the mathematical hash of the wifi password combined with your password. for example, a wifi network name of appleinsider, and a password " appleinsiderpassword ", generates a hash of " e70f772ac2efd170dc485b19f19ac9a237cdbfbdc816a402fd5a3d9b08a94c52 " and its that hexicimal string that actually connects you to the wifi network. 
    Steps before you sell your Mac are the topic of a different (forthcoming) article.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 9
    a better article would of been make sure you erase your pram when you sell your mac , because thats another place where macs store wifi passwords. try it sometime.
    erase your hard disk completely, and do an internet restore , and it will connect to your wifi!! and if you do a pram reset, it will then ask you for the login credentials because
    they were erased!!!

    as far as mongo bongos reply goes. need more info. maybe youre talking about the hash????

    when you connect to a wifi network , its not really the password that connects you to the wifi network. its the mathematical hash of the wifi password combined with your network name (ssid ) . for example, a wifi network name of appleinsider, and a password " appleinsiderpassword ", generates a hash of " e70f772ac2efd170dc485b19f19ac9a237cdbfbdc816a402fd5a3d9b08a94c52 " and its that hexicimal string that actually connects you to the wifi network. 

    this is why you don't use common SSID names like "NETGEAR" because those hash tables are available or download

    the hash as i call it, is actually called the PRE SHARED KEY. the preshared key can be used as the password. if someone asks you for your wifi password, give them the key instead. and it will work. i use PSKs all the time, because it saves me from typing special characters 
    Well in that case I most likely am talking about the hash. My comment is still valid though and I find it noteworthy as looking up a password in Keychain, one expects to find said password, not the hash. Mike W, do you know what is going on in this case?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 9
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,303administrator
    a better article would of been make sure you erase your pram when you sell your mac , because thats another place where macs store wifi passwords. try it sometime.
    erase your hard disk completely, and do an internet restore , and it will connect to your wifi!! and if you do a pram reset, it will then ask you for the login credentials because
    they were erased!!!

    as far as mongo bongos reply goes. need more info. maybe youre talking about the hash????

    when you connect to a wifi network , its not really the password that connects you to the wifi network. its the mathematical hash of the wifi password combined with your network name (ssid ) . for example, a wifi network name of appleinsider, and a password " appleinsiderpassword ", generates a hash of " e70f772ac2efd170dc485b19f19ac9a237cdbfbdc816a402fd5a3d9b08a94c52 " and its that hexicimal string that actually connects you to the wifi network. 

    this is why you don't use common SSID names like "NETGEAR" because those hash tables are available or download

    the hash as i call it, is actually called the PRE SHARED KEY. the preshared key can be used as the password. if someone asks you for your wifi password, give them the key instead. and it will work. i use PSKs all the time, because it saves me from typing special characters 
    Well in that case I most likely am talking about the hash. My comment is still valid though and I find it noteworthy as looking up a password in Keychain, one expects to find said password, not the hash. Mike W, do you know what is going on in this case?
    It's been a busy few days. I'll look into it over the weekend.
    watto_cobramongobongo
  • Reply 7 of 9
    a better article would of been make sure you erase your pram when you sell your mac , because thats another place where macs store wifi passwords. try it sometime.
    erase your hard disk completely, and do an internet restore , and it will connect to your wifi!! and if you do a pram reset, it will then ask you for the login credentials because
    they were erased!!!

    I don't believe that information is stored in the PRAM. It is, however, included as part of your iCloud keychain.

    Your statement is still valid, and something I doubt 99.9% of us consider when selling old hardware. Secure-delete your partition, Internet Recover, and reset your SMC and PRAM (just to be safe). That said, my wifi password is not even remotely like any of the other passwords used in my family so I'm not too concerned if it is somehow found out, and the likelihood of some future owner of my hardware driving by my neighborhood to connect to my wifi is pretty slim.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 9
    Mike, did you ever look into the scrambled wifi passwords?
  • Reply 9 of 9
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,303administrator
    Mike, did you ever look into the scrambled wifi passwords?
    Still working on it. I've been talking to some people I know, and they are very slow to return my emails.
    mongobongo
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