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Utility recovers wireless network keys in Windows installation

If Nir Sofer ever stops writing his freeware utilities, a small light will go out in the world. In all the time I've been writing about computers and software, I've never seen a single person so tirelessly produce such a broad range of genuinely useful tools as Sofer does.

One of his newest tools,

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WirelessKeyView, is an application that can recover all the wireless network keys, including WEP and WPA keys, in a given Windows installation. Like of his other tools, WirelessKeyView requires no installation and can run from any directory, so it makes a great addition to a portable toolkit.

When run, the utility polls the computer and retrieves a list of all the available registered network names (SSIDs) with keys, the type of key, the key itself (in both ASCII and hex dumps), and the associated network adapter name and GUID. Note: The ASCII dump of the key will only be made if the key itself can be dumped safely to ASCII; if the key has non-ASCII hex in it, it won't be dumped.

The resulting key list can be exported to the clipboard, or to a number of different formatted files: flat text, tab-delimited, tabular text, HTML and XML. Unlike some of Sofer's other programs, this one can only poll the current computer for key information; it can't (as yet) be used to get key information from another machine on the network. (I say "as yet" because many of his programs that retrieve data like this are able to do so across the network after a few revisions.)

Recovering wireless keys can serve as a troubleshooting measure, if you wanted to determine if the wireless key set up on a particular system matches the wireless key set up for the hardware that provides wireless access. It can also be useful if you want to determine if the wireless key in a given system has been subverted or modified.

Note: The program cannot reveal keys that have been stored by third-party network management software. Many notebook computers ship with a third-party network card manager that stores the wireless keys. WKV can only find keys that have been stored in Windows via the Wireless Zero Configuration Service. (If the network card manager is simply a front end for Windows's own key management system and WZCSVC, it should work.)

Also note: The program only works on Windows XP SP1 or higher, and only for an administrative user. It does not yet appear to work correctly in Vista.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in January 2007

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