Chances are you have a Wi-Fi network at home, or live close to one (or more) that tantalizingly pops up in a list whenever you boot up the laptop.
The problem is, if there’s a lock next to the network name (AKA the SSID, or service set identifier), that indicates security is activated. Without the password or passphrase, you’re not going to get access to that network, or the sweet, sweet internet that goes with it.
Perhaps you forgot the password on your own network, or don’t have neighbors willing to share the Wi-Fi goodness. You could just go to a café, buy a latte, and use the “free” Wi-Fi there. Download an app for your phone like WiFi-Map (available for iOS and Android), and you’ll have a list of over 2 million hotspots with free Wi-Fi for the taking (including some passwords for locked Wi-Fi connections, if they’re shared by any of the app’s 7 million users).
However, there are other ways to get back on the wireless. Some require such extreme patience and waiting that the café idea is going to look pretty good. Read on if you can’t wait.
Windows Commands to Get the Key
This trick works to recover a Wi-Fi network password (aka network security key) only if you’ve previously attached to the Wi-Fi in question using that very password. In other words, it only works if you’ve forgotten a previously used password.
It works because Windows 8 and 10 create a profile of every Wi-Fi network to which you attach. If you tell Windows to forget the network, then it also forgets the password, so this won’t work. But most people never explicitly do that.
It requires that you go into a Windows Command Prompt…