Friday, August 16, 2013

Reset Linksys Wireless Router Password

Discussion: How to reset a wireless router's password.  Or, how to reset a wireless password without having to reset the router to factory defaults.

Every few months I get asked this question:  How can I discover my wireless router's password.  Or, more accurately, how can I reset the wireless password without resetting the router to factory defaults.

The short answer:   You can't -- not unless you know the router's admin password.

(Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit)

The longer answer:

* If you know the router's Admin password:

You do not have a problem.  Log-in to the router and view the wireless passwords.  (See first-time-setup, below for steps)

** But the real reason you are reading this article is probably because you have forgotten both the Admin and the Wireless access passwords.  This puts you at a distinct disadvantage.

Without the router's admin password, the only way to recover the Wireless password is to reset the router to factory defaults and re-configure all wireless devices. In other words, rebuild the network from scratch.

The real answer:

If you need to reset to factory defaults, follow the instructions in this excellent keyliner article -- skipping the hardware steps a, b, and c, jumping directly to the router-reset in Step 1.

These steps work basically the same with all brands of routers - with a minor difference in the initial IP address and default password.

Sounds scary, but it is relatively easy, provided you are some-what computer cognizant and are not afraid of following those instructions.  If you are familiar with the steps, it takes about a half-an-hour to an hour to rebuild the network, plus another minute or two for each connecting device. You will have to revisit Xboxes, Wii's, netflix devices, TV's, laptops, tablets, thermostats and cell phones to all recognize the newly built network.

What if you made a backup of your Router's Configuration (saving as a .cfg file)? 
Can I recover from this?

If you knew your Admin password, you could recover the config file - provided you could log into the router and restore it -- in other words, a catch-22.  And good luck opening the (linksys) .cfg file in a text editor; the file is encrypted, as it should be.  The real problem with this method is nobody ever makes a backup of their router-config (nor do I), so likely, this isn't even a possibility.  Readers have posted comments about other brands of routers, below, but I have not seen evidence that the passwords are visible in clear text and am suspicious.

Okay, I get it.  Any other hints?

Step 8 from my Router-First-Time-Setup article, deserves to be repeated:

"The passwords should not be lost or forgotten.  I recommend recording these values and store in an envelope near the router or use a luggage tag:

Router Address: 

Broadcast SSID: _______________________

Starting DHCP Address:

Admin Password: __admin /______________

24G Wireless Password: ________________

5G Wireless Password: _________________

Guest Wireless: _______________________

Broadcast SSID:  keyliner
Starting DHCP Address:
Admin Password:  airplanes5g
24G Wireless Access Password:  airplanes24
5G Wireless Access Password: airplanes5g - or other password
Guest Wireless Access Password:  airliner

Why the Secrecy?

The router's admin password and the router's wireless are encrypted and if you could hack them, everyone could.  By definition, wireless things are a security nightmare to begin with.  The vendors and the operating systems on your computers, phones, and other devices, have taken great lengths to make sure this stuff is secured.  From all my research, they've done a reasonably good job.

Sorry there is not a good answer to this problem.


  1. Sometimes you can read the wireless password off the settings/connection information of a device that connects to your wireless network, but that won't get you the admin password.

  2. Anon: What device would that be? A security risk that would be.

    1. Possibly, yes. Belkin Dongle control software saves the wireless password in a readable form, as does firefox password manager if you let it. Ipods don't appear to

    2. The wireless network properties box on windows 7 will also show the connection password in plaintext. It may not be accessible if you can't detect the network, I imagine other versions of windows are similiar. The saved configuration file for my older Dlink router was also in plaintext. It was failing, which brought me to keyliner for excellent advice for selecting and setting up a linksys. Thanks.


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