Frequently Asked Questions

PennKey FAQs

What is a PennKey and who needs one?

A PennKey is an individual's username and an associated password within the PennKey authentication system. A PennKey is required to authenticate your identity to access many of Penn's online resources.

Who is eligible for a PennKey?

University of Pennsylvania faculty, staff, students, and alumni; employees of the University of Pennsylvania Health System; and sponsored guests (individuals with an official business need for accessing restricted Penn resources) are eligible for a PennKey. Some examples of sponsored guests include consultants, volunteers, visiting scholars, and course auditors.

How do I get a PennKey?

How you get a PennKey all depends on what your affiliation is with the University.  For example, departments facilitate the PennKey process as part of onboarding new faculty and staff. Alternatively, the process for incoming students is fully automated. PennKeys for guests and temporary affiliates are initiated by the sponsoring department, center or school.

What should students, faculty, and staff who don't have a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) enter when the last four digits of their SSN are requested on a PennKey registration logon screen?

They should enter the last four digits of the 9-digit identifier (ID) they received from the University. This ID takes the form xxx-xx-xxxx and is variously referred to as a Student ID, a Federal Taxpayer ID, and a Penn-assigned SSN. Students typically receive this identifier from their admitting program office, while faculty and staff receive it from their business administrator.

Newly admitted students who did not provide a U.S. SSN with their application are also issued a Penn-assigned SSN to use during PennKey registration. 

Can I change my PennKey username after I register it?

Your PennKey username can be changed only under the following circumstances:

  • A legal name change
  • A PennName is deemed offensive to the Penn community
  • Reported email harassment or threats that warrant a change

Provided that you meet one of the criteria above, to initiate a request for a PennName change, contact the IT support staff of your school or center. Please note that if your PennKey username changes, so will your username on all other systems that are based on your PennKey username such as your email account name.

I've forgotten my PennKey username! What do I do now?

If you can't remember your PennKey username, contact the PennKey support group for assistance.

How long will my PennKey stay active?

PennKeys generally do not expire. However, an active PennKey alone does not grant access to PennKey-protected services. Authorization (access or eligibility to use a service) is determined by the owners of individual services and may change or be terminated if your University affiliation or status changes.

How long will my PennKey work for a given Penn computing service?

Your PennKey alone doesn't authorize you to use campus computers or services. It only proves your identity. Authorization is the service owner's decision. For example, say that you change jobs within Penn. Previously, you had access to departmental financial data via BEN Reports, but that's not part of your new job. You'll still be able to use your PennKey for authorized services like Workday, but you won't be able to access the financial data you previously were authorized to access.

Setup Codes

What are PennKey Setup Codes, and how do they work?

PennKey Setup Codes are temporary identifiers used to log in to the PennKey Registration application. A Setup Code expires once it's been used or 30 days from the issue date, whichever comes first. A Setup Code can be used to (1) register a new PennKey, or (2) reset a PennKey password if you have forgotten it.

Can a Setup Code be reused?

No it can't. However, if you did not fully complete the PennKey registration or password reset process, you can use the same Setup Code within 30 days of the issue date.

How do I get another Setup Code if I lose mine or it expires?

You can always get a replacement Setup Code by visiting a PennKey administration station. Note that once you request another Setup Code by any means, the previously requested Setup Code becomes invalid.

PennKey Passwords

When I try to create a password, it gets rejected because it supposedly contains a dictionary word, though I don't think it does. What's going on?

"Dictionary" does not simply mean a standard English language dictionary -- it also includes foreign language dictionaries and all kinds of specialized dictionaries that hackers use to crack passwords.

What is the Self-Service Password Reset application?

Self-Service Password Reset (SSPR) is Penn’s modern, secure, easy-to-use app for resetting your PennKey password – using only your pre-registered personal (non-Penn) email address and cell phone number.

I've forgotten my PennKey password. What should I do?

You will need to reset it -- no one can retrieve a forgotten password for you. If you previously enrolled in SSPR, you can reset your password online instantly. Otherwise, you need to obtain a new Setup Code.

Can my PennKey password be reset manually by a PennKey administrator, or can someone tell me what it is if I forget it?

No. Passwords are stored in the system in encrypted form and cannot be read by administrative personnel. Only you should ever know what your password is.

I know my PennKey password but would like to change it. How do I do it?

You can reset your password to something that you prefer by using the Change PennKey Password application.

I think somebody “stole” or found out my PennKey password. What should I do?

If you believe that your PennKey password has been compromised, contact the Office of Information Security at or 215-898-2172. They can immediately issue a Setup Code against your PennKey that will effectively “freeze” your PennKey until you can obtain a Setup Code to reset your password. If you believe that any criminal activity has taken place or will take place, it is strongly recommended that you contact Penn Public Safety at 511 (on-campus) or 215-573-3333 (off-campus).


I'm able to access most things that require PennKey (Path@Penn, Canvas, etc.), but cannot access some of the Library resources I need. What's wrong?

If you are having trouble accessing Library resources, visit any Library Circulation Desk and consult with Library staff. Note that not all Penn affiliates are authorized to access Library electronic resources. For more information, visit the Penn Libraries website. 

How can I tell if my PennKey works?

Try the Test My PennKey application. If you can authenticate successfully in that application, your PennKey username and password are functioning properly.

I verified my PennKey using the Test My PennKey application, but I still can't access a PennKey-protected online resource. What do I do?

If the service uses PennKey authentication, report your access problem to the service or application owner. Your login problem may be specific to that service rather than being a PennKey problem.