What Is a WPA2 Password and Is It Necessary?

Find out how a strong Wi-Fi password can mean the difference in internet security and identity theft.
Patti Croft, Author
Catherine McNally, Editor
Last updated May 31, 2022

If you have ever set up a wireless connection from home, you may have run across something asking for a WPA2 password. WPA2 is short for “Wi-Fi Protected Access 2.”

The WPA2 protocol was introduced in 2006, and many people use it to provide greater Wi-Fi security for their families. You can usually find your WPA2 password in your router’s security settings and will get asked for a new password when setting up your home network.

You may get tempted to skip adding a WPA2 password during your wireless setup because you fear forgetting a password. The problem is, using Wi-Fi without a password comes with the danger of someone else hacking into your network. Keep reading to learn why you need to use this protocol for your Wi-Fi network before accessing any internet sites.

In this article
What is a WPA2 password?
How to find your WPA2 password
WPA2 password FAQs
Bottom line

What is a WPA2 password?

A WPA2 password is the second generation protocol for Wi-Fi Protected Access. When you set up your home network system, you will create a Wi-Fi password in your router settings using this protocol.

You will not have to meet specific requirements for a WPA2 password. A general guideline for a strong password is to use at least 16 characters. That will make it harder for internet hackers to crack, which is the ultimate goal of having a WPA2 password.

We recommend you use a combination password to make it more secure. When using a combination password, ‌include upper and lowercase letters. You also want to use at least one special character and, at minimum, one number.

When it comes to choosing your WPA2 password, you don’t have to overthink it. Some people try to make it complicated and get frustrated in the process.

Although you want a strong password, you also can think of some combinations that make sense to you. The sky's the limit because you can use any characters you choose. Have some fun with it until you find what works for you.

It is a good idea to use something that others would not guess. Never use your name or the name of a family pet. A strong combination password could be something like “ITexpert$et4life.” You can arrange the characters any way you want.

How to access your Wi-Fi router settings

You can log into your wireless router's settings page by entering your router's IP address in your web browser. Common router IP addresses include:

  • 192.168.0.1
  • 192.168.1.1
  • 192.168.1.254

Or you can check your router's manufacturer website for more information.

The history of WPA2 security protocol

The WPA2 password security protocol was established in 2006 to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your home network. The WPA2 password protocol is still getting used 16 years later because it continues to provide security protection.

WPA is the security standard to make any wireless network safe. Before WPA, the gold standard was WEP but got replaced because of security vulnerabilities. The WPA protocol uses a 256-bit key for encryption, rather than the 64-bit and 128-bit used by the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol system.

For instance, on a 256-bit system, it would take a hacker approximately twice as long to decipher the password than it would to guess the password for a 128-bit system. The higher the number, the more possible combinations you have available.

The outdated WEP protocol was able to use the 64-bit encryption, which is the lowest protection standard now. Hackers could break into the network with more ease than they can now with the stronger encryption that WPA uses.

WEP: WEP is the first network security protocol. This was the security standard in 1999 and claimed to offer the same security as a wired network connection.

WPA: When the original WPA security protocol began, it was the first to accept human-friendly passwords and phrases. It also introduced the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). TKIP prevents attacks that were once possible on WEP networks.

TKIP: TKIP made it possible to join other network connections without showing unauthorized users your secure information. That change was a definite improvement over WEP technology.

With WEP, everyone on the wireless network could share the same information. All users became vulnerable to anyone else who joined the same network. The traffic that flowed through it could get intercepted by another user nearby. That happens because the WEP protocol uses the same key that gets shared with everyone using the network. 

WPA technology made it possible to connect to a public network that uses the same password for everyone, and your traffic remained more private because of stronger encryption.

What is a WPA3 password?

The WPA3 password is the third generation of the security protocol developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It is the updated version of WPA2.

The Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) protocol is a newer security protocol designed to encrypt your data using an automatic and frequent encryption type. The encryption used is called Perfect Forward Secrecy.

The WPA3 security protocol may be considered more secure than the previous version, WPA2. It uses more robust data encryption. WPA3 guards against offline dictionary attacks that attempt to guess passwords by using Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) authentication.

One of the ways a WPA3 password keeps communication secure is with advanced encryption practices. For instance, when connecting devices, WPA3 security uses a 384-bit Hashed Message Authentication Mode. If a hacker picks up the communication between these devices, the unauthorized user cannot figure out the encryption key used for the connection.

WPA3 password security also won’t allow remote access. It uses near-field communication (NFC). That is a short-range technology that authenticates devices by tapping them together. For example, where WPA3 is used, you can take your smartphone and tap it against the WPA3 router and get instant network access.

Some may consider this a security issue because anyone within tapping distance can access the network. However, it also means that anyone not within tapping distance cannot access the network. Hackers cannot grab a remote NFC session.

Another feature you may like about WPA3 passwords is that your guests can access your network without a password. With a simple tap, they will enter the network without having to type anything into their devices. You must be using a device that supports NFC technology to use this function. Most smartphones can download apps to work with these.

Should you upgrade to WPA3?

When you want the most advanced network security available, the WPA3 is the ultimate system. It uses the most recent security standards on the market. WPA3 is also the fastest of the three WPA protocols.

If you wonder if you need to start using WPA3, you should consider your hardware devices. Some hardware may not support the more advanced features of WPA3. Whether you should go for WPA3 depends on the age of your hardware and how concerned you are about internet security. Because WPA3 security technology has only been around since 2018, some devices are not compatible with the newer protocol.

When you want the most advanced network security available, the WPA3 is the ultimate system. It uses the most recent security standards on the market. WPA3 is also the fastest of the three WPA protocols.

You will get a protected network by choosing WPA2 or WPA3. Both provide strong encryption to guard against hackers. WPA3 does come with upgrades that protect passwords from cyber attacks. Whether you should go for WPA3 depends on the age of your hardware and how concerned you are about internet security. Since WPA3 security technology has only been around since 2018, some devices are not compatible with the newer protocol.

Another point to consider regarding WPA3 is how often you will use public networks and if you will be allowing people to use your home network. If you use your internet for casual browsing, you will most likely be safe with WPA2.

Technology is constantly changing. There will always be new updates and upgrades to keep your network safer. You may find that you don’t need as much protection as someone who travels often or uses unsecured networks.

How to find your WPA2 password

If you forget your WPA2 password, you can get to it by using a few short keystrokes. You may also want to add a device to your network and will need the WPA2 security password to do that.

Getting to your WPA2 password may look different depending on whether you use the Windows or Mac operating system. We will cover both of those below.

On a Mac

When looking for the WPA2 password for your Mac, follow these steps:

1. Open your Applications folder and find the Utilities folder, then click on “Keychain Access.”

A screenshot showing the Keychain Access app on a Mac

2. Choose “System” in the left panel.

3. Select “Passwords” at the top of the Keychain Access window.

4. Double-click on the name of your network to show the Wi-Fi information.

A screenshot of the Keychain Access app and Wi-Fi network details window on a Mac

5. Check the “Show password” option and type in your admin password, then click “Allow" to reveal your Wi-Fi password.

A screenshot of the Keychain Access app and Wi-Fi network password window on a Mac

On Microsoft Windows

Using Windows, you can follow these steps to find your WPA2 password.

1. Press Start on your Windows device and type “CMD.” You will right-click on this prompt and select “Run as administrator.”

2. Type in the command “NETSH WLAN SHOW PROFILE” and press Enter.

A screenshot of the Windows Command Prompt app showing Wi-Fi user profiles

3. Type the command that follows, replacing “WIFI” with your network name: NETSH WLAN SHOW PROFILE WIFI KEY=CLEAR

A screenshot of the Windows Command Prompt app and a list of the Wi-Fi user profiles

4. In the Security settings, you will find your WPA2 password under the "Key Content" section.

A screenshot showing the Windows Command Prompt window with Key Content and the user's blurred out Wi-Fi password highlighted in red

WPA2 password FAQs


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What’s the maximum length for a WPA2 password?

The maximum length for a WPA2 password is 63 characters. Although most IT experts consider the longer the password, the better, most of us will never use 63 characters.

Most of us want to use passwords that are ‌shorter. You can use as few as eight characters if you would like. Experts suggest avoiding words you might find in the dictionary.

Hackers can attempt to guess your password repeatedly without your knowledge, so keep that in mind when choosing one. For the best security, the more random the password, the better. You do not have to use 63 characters, but stretching it to 20 is a good middle ground.


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Is a WPA2 password different from a Wi-Fi password?

No, a WPA2 password is essentially the same thing as a Wi-Fi password and is considered one of the safest forms of Wi-Fi protection. You create a password of your choice to keep unauthorized users from getting into your computer network.

Bottom line

A WPA2 password is a pass phrase that secures your home Wi-Fi network from intruders who want to hack into your system. It safeguards your network so you and your family can safely access the internet.

Knowing how to find a WPA2 password relieves the stress of worrying over forgetting what you set up for your home network security. You can easily access your password whenever you need it by using Command Prompt on Windows or Keychain Access on a Mac.

If you are not using a WPA2 password for your home network, ‌start setting one up today. Internet hackers are working hard to break into networks everywhere. You should work just as hard to make sure they cannot succeed. For more on internet security, check out the other online security articles on our site.

Author Details
Patti Croft
Patti Croft has a B.S. in Computer Information Systems and an MBA. She's also a Certified Health Data Analyst through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Patti worked in Information Technology for 16 years and loves everything tech and gadgets!