When it comes to connecting devices to a wireless network in a secured manner, WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy key comes into the picture. In simple language, WEP or passphrase is a code that protects a wireless network via encryption. So, whenever you make an attempt to connect portable devices such as laptop, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, iPhone, and Android phone to a Wi-Fi network, you will have to find out and provide your WEP key or passphrase first.
Although there are other better ways of encrypting a Wi-Fi network, WEP is the most common method in use even today because of its compatibility with a majority of the portable devices that can connect to a Wi-Fi network. However, despite this, many people are not aware of this key. So, before we move on to how to find out the WEP key, let’s understand what a WEP key is.
What Exactly Is A WEP Key?
Technically, WEP is a standard for Wi-Fi security. Functionally, a WEP key enables a set of local devices (let’s say on a home network) to send/receive encoded messages and hiding their contents at the same time so that the outsiders cannot view them easily. Visually, a WEP key refers to a special code that operates on some Wi-Fi networks in the form of hexadecimal digits including only numbers (0-9) and letters (A-F). For example, a WEP key can be 89F564BCE32BA12D0C0268F187.
The length of such a key depends on the type of encryption employed. For instance, for 40-/64-bit encryption, a 10-digit key is present; while in case of 104-/128-bit encryption, a 26 digit key is available. Lastly, the 256-bit encryption offers a WEP key of 58 digits.
WEP keys are either selected by a network administrator or are automatically generated by some wireless network equipment brands or sites. Generally, these keys are associated with the wireless devices such as Wi-Fi routers and adapters. In order to enable communication among the devices, matching WEP keys are set on each of them.
How to Retrieve a WEP Key?
There are two ways to know your WEP key namely, via the Control Panel or via the Router Settings page in your browser. We shall check both the ways.
To find a WEP key via the Control Panel in Windows XP
1. Open the Control Panel.
2. Double-click Wireless Network Setup Wizard. The wizard is displayed.
3. Click Next.
4. Select the Add new computers or devices to the ‘’ network option.
5. Click Next.
6. Select the Set up a network manually option.
7. Click Next.
8. Click the Print Network Settings button. The settings will be displayed in the Notepad wherein you can see your WEP key under Wireless Settings.
9. Close the Notepad and the wizard. (Kindly do not click Finish in the wizard).
If you are using Windows 7, you need to right-click the connection icon at the screen’s bottom-right corner to open Network and Sharing Center. Next, click the network link to which you are connected. (It should be the wireless router name). Now, click the Wireless Properties button and then the Security tab. Finally, click Show characters to see your WEP key.
To Find a WEP Key Via the IE, Opera, or Firefox Browser
1. Open your browser.
2. Enter the router’s IP address in the Address bar. For example, it can be 192.168.1.1 (for Linksys), 192.168.2.1 (for Belkin), or 10.0.0.1 as well. A login prompt is displayed.
3. Enter the correct username and password. In case of Linksys, it is admin and password; while for a Belkin router, there is no password. In other cases, it is mostly admin and admin respectively. Finally, the router’s setup screen is displayed.
4. Click Wireless or Settings whichever is present on the page and then click Wireless security or wireless settings. Voila! You should now see your WEP key. Alternatively, in some browsers, you only need to click the Wireless tab to see the key.
Note: The above method might not work in Chrome or Safari. Therefore, it is better to stick to the first way.