Jeff Werner | Daily News Columnist
Q: Great column about retrieving a forgotten Wi-Fi password (I.G.T.M. Issue No. 523, July 30, 2017). I have two questions: 1. How is a forgotten password retrieved if the computer doesn't automatically connect to Wi-Fi? 2. Is there a solution to retrieve a password for an iPhone? My 12-year-old granddaughter has forgotten her password and cannot use her iPhone. I am not very computer savvy, so I learn from and enjoy your articles very much. Thanks.
— Lester D., Mary Esther
A: You had me confused for a second there, Lester. I was trying to formulate an answer for you when I realized that if the computer isn’t connecting automatically, there is no stored password, so there is nothing to retrieve — at least not from the computer.
The steps I provided in Issue No. 523 showed how to examine the password that was used by an active Wi-Fi connection. There is no equivalent for unconnected adapters. If you think about it for a second, you’ll realize that what you’re asking is how to get every possible password from every possible Wi-Fi connection. It just can’t be done.
However, if you’re the owner of the router in question, you can always go to the router itself. Your router is probably located on your home network at IP address 192.168.1.1. Enter that into the browser of any device that’s currently connected — either wirelessly or via hard line 1— and you’ll access the router’s set-up pages. You’ll need to log in, and yes, that means you’ll need the administrator password. Among the configuration items you’ll find the Wi-Fi setup, including the Service Set Identifier, or SSID, and the security information, which includes options for encryption and for the passphrase to access the Wi-Fi. If you don’t know these passwords, you can usually reset the router to its factory state by pressing and holding a Reset button on the back or bottom of the device.
Look in your owner’s manual or online for detailed instructions on how to do this with your model router, and its factory default passwords. Once you get it reconfigured, it is important to protect these passwords, but equally important to remember them so you have them when you need them. At the Geek House, I have at least a dozen devices connected at any given time, and family and other visitors are always asking for access to my Wi-Fi. If I didn’t know the password we’d all be out of luck!
Your question about your granddaughter’s iPhone had me for a second also. I thought you were still talking about Wi-Fi, then I realized that you mean she’s completely locked out of the device. I have to tell you, Apple’s security is pretty robust. Remember the federal court case last year where the FBI was suing Apple to get them to unlock an iPhone following the San Bernardino terrorist attack? If there was a simple way to get past a locked iPhone, the FBI certainly would have known about it and used it. That’s not to say that iPhone security is perfect. It can be, and indeed has been cracked. Ultimately, the FBI paid $900,000 to a third party company to get access to the data on the device.
Your situation quite different. The FBI wanted all the contents of that phone intact to be used as evidence. I’m sure your granddaughter just wants her phone to work. You can use iTunes either to restore a backup of the phone from a time when it had a password that she remembers, or to reset the phone to its factory settings, and then set it up again. Any apps that she paid for can be re-downloaded under her Apple ID without having to be purchased again. She will, of course, lose all stored data such as pictures, e-mails, text messages, etc.
I want to emphasize again how important it is to remember your passwords. It is supposed to be difficult or impossible to access your devices without them. You want to legitimately get in, but the action is no different from a hacker trying to get in without your permission. If you use your device so casually that you forget your password from one day to the next, I submit that you’re not taking the security of your own data seriously enough, and ultimately, that’s asking for trouble.
To view additional content, comment on articles, or submit a question of your own, visit my website at ItsGeekToMe.co (not .com!)