It’s midnight. You’ve got your Android phone in your hand. You’re close to your data limit. And you have a big file to download.
And you can’t connect to the Wi-Fi.
Maybe you upgraded and lost the password. Maybe you had to do a factory reset. Maybe your connection was slow, and in a fit, you deleted that Wi-Fi access point.
Right now it doesn’t really matter why you no longer have it. You just need to get it. But everyone else is asleep, or no one else knows it.
What can you do?
Well, the good news is, there is a way to recover the Wi-Fi password from your Android device, and it doesn’t require you to root your phone. It does require a little poking around on your phone or tablet, but nothing you can’t handle.
Wait, What’s Root?
The term “root” is a holdover from the Unix operating systems and is the name for a privileged level of access.
If you’ve only ever used a Windows machine or a Mac, you’ve probably never encountered Unix except in the scene in Jurassic Park where the little girl saves everyone – and that wasn’t really Unix. Suffice it to say if you’re not familiar with it, you’re probably not going to want to learn it while you’re in a panic trying to recover your Wi-Fi password.
Basically, if you have root, you can do anything you want to your phone. Install what you want, delete what you want.
Which is one reason why, if you’re not very careful or very knowledgeable, you’re going to want to avoid getting root access to your phone. Why? Because if you can delete anything, you can delete files that are important to your phone’s operation.
And with root, there is nothing to stop you from doing it.
The other reason is rooting your phone will void your warranty on it. So, if you do manage to delete an important system file and brick your phone, you’re going to have a hard time getting it back. And since it’s no longer under warranty, well, break out the credit card. You’re about to drop another $700 on a phone.
And you still won’t have the Wi-Fi password.
So, let’s just agree for now that if you want to root your phone you’ll do it at some future point when you’re really ready to do it, or when you’re not trying to do something you can accomplish without root. Like recover a Wi-Fi password. Deal?
How to Recover a Wi-Fi Password on Android – WITHOUT Root
There are a couple of things you’ll need installed on your phone before you start this process. You should be able to get both from the Google Play store, and there will be plenty of free options to choose from.
The first thing you’ll need is a file manager program. This will let you see all of the files on your device, not just the ones visible with your apps.
Personally, I use IO File Manager, which is free, but this isn’t an endorsement. Feel free to pick the one that seems like it’ll work best for you. There are lots of free options.
The second thing you’ll need is a text editor. Again, there are a number of free apps available in the Google Play store that you can download.
Now that you’ve got the tools you need, the process is pretty easy:
1) Open the file manager program you downloaded, above
2) You’ll need to navigate to where the file is – there are a few places it might be. Start by navigating to the top of your file system. Many file managers allow you to do this by hitting the Home icon
3) From there, the file you’re looking for might be in one of a couple of places. Start by looking in the directory called /data and then under that either /wifi or, if /wifi isn’t there, try /misc and then /wifi. At this point your file path should look like /data/wifi or /data/misc/wifi
4) Here’s where it gets a little tricky – if you’re in /data/wifi, look for a file called bcm_supp.conf. If you’re in /data/misc/wifi, the file should be named wpa_supplicant.conf.
Unless it’s not there, like it wasn’t on my phone. At this point, if you can’t find it, use the file manager search function and search for wpa_supplicant.conf. Mine was in /etc/wifi.
5) Open that file in the text editor you downloaded. Once in that file, look for the code that has the Wi-Fi network name you are trying to connect to. It should look something like this
Where, obviously, NETWORK_NAME_HERE is the name of the Wi-Fi network you’re looking for. As you can see from the code above, the password should be right with the network name.
Now that you’ve recovered that password, you should consider downloading a password vault, also known as a password manager. A password vault lets you securely save all your passwords in a single place, and encrypts them so they are safe from prying eyes. Even if someone gets a hold of your device, they can’t open the vault without the “key”.
Most of these apps have two-factor authentication, so you’ll need both a password and another piece of information, like a fingerprint, voice recognition or Google Authenticator validation. Many of these password managers have auto password capture, which basically means when you log into a new site that it doesn’t find in its repository, it will add that site, plus the login and password you used to access it.
So there you have it – you’ve successfully recovered your Wi-Fi password without calling in backup or phoning a friend. Dignity saved. And you’ve gone one step further and set yourself up to have that password available in the future, easily, with a password manager. Mischief managed.