PennKey Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a PennKey and who needs one?

A PennKey is an individual's username within the PennKey authentication system. Paired with an associated password, a PennKey is required to authenticate your identity for access to many of Penn's networked systems and services.

Anyone who needs access to PennKey-protected electronic resources must register a PennKey.

What is a "Non-Persistent" PennKey?

Non-Persistent PennKeys are issued to individuals such as conference attendees who have a more fluid or shorter-term relationship to Penn. Non-Persistent PennKeys start with a "g" followed by seven digits. They always have a limited life-span and cannot be renewed once expired. Individuals with Non-Persistent PennKeys cannot set a new password if they forget theirs. They need to obtain a new PennKey and a new Penn ID.

Non-Persistent PennKeys allow only limited access to Penn’s electronic 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 who have an official business need for accessing restricted Penn resources) are eligible for a PennKey. Some examples of sponsored guests include consultants, volunteers, visiting scholars, anc course auditors. Sponsorship information can be found in the How to Sponsor a Guest section of the web site.

How do I get a PennKey?

First you must obtain a PennKey Setup Code then use it to register your PennKey and optionally answer Challenge-Response questions.

See “I need a PennKey” for details.

What does a PennKey letter/email look like??

See “PennKey Letter Text” for details.

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.

I received an error message when I tried to register my PennKey and was unable to complete the process. What should I do?

You may be able to solve the problem yourself after reviewing descriptions of several common registration errors. Otherwise, contact

Can I change my PennKey once it's been assigned?

Your PennKey is based on your PennName, a unique identifier for usernames on many Penn systems. PennNames 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 your Local Support Provider (LSP). Remember that if your PennName changes, so will your username on all other systems that are based on PennNames such as your email account name.

I've forgotten my PennKey and/or PennKey Password, What do I do now?

Your PennKey is usually identical to your username on your University email account. For example, if your email address is "", then your PennKey is most likely "example". If you need further assistance determining what your PennKey is, please contact No one can retrieve your password for you. If you've forgotten it, you will need to reset it following the instructions at "I forgot my PennKey / password.".

How long will my PennKey stay active?

PennKeys generally do not expire. Non-Persistent PennKeys expire on the date indicated at the time it was created, and all PennKeys are subject to suspension for security reasons. An active PennKey alone does not grant access to PennKey-protected services. Authorization (access or elibigility 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 U@Penn, but you won't be able to access the financial data you previously were authorized to access.

Does PennKey encrypt the contents of email?

No it doesn't. If you need to secure the contents of your email, check with your Local Support Provider (LSP) or Information Technology Advisor (ITA) and review the information at the Secure Electronic Messaging page.


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 60 days from the issue date, whichever comes first. You need a Setup Code (1) if you have forgotten your PennKey password and want to reset it, or (2) if you want to register a new PennKey.

Setup Codes are described in detail on the About PennKey Setup Codes page. It's important to review that information so you don't inadvertently freeze your PennKey or invalidate your Setup Code.

How do I get a Setup Code?

The various ways you can obtain a Setup Code are described on the About PennKey Setup Codes page.

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 60 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 or by requesting one via the Setup Code Service. Note that once you request another Setup Code by any means, the previously requested Setup Code becomes invalid.

I requested a Setup Code via the PennKey Setup Code Service more than a week ago, but it hasn't arrived. What should I do?

If you've allowed enough time for the Setup Code to reach you, send a follow-up query to to learn the status of your request and what address the Setup Code was sent to. Before requesting a second Setup Code, keep the following in mind:

• The new Setup Code request will invalidate the previous Setup Code. If the Setup Code you originally requested does arrive, it will not work.

• If your address is incorrect or out of date, the Setup Code will not reach you.

Information on updating your address information is also available on the Addresses information page.

What is meant by “address of record” and how can I determine that mine is correct?

Address of record is linked to your status (applicant, student, alumnus/a, Penn employee, UPHS employee, other). Details, including instructions on how to check, and if necessary, update your address can be found on the Address information page.

How do I update my address of record?

Please see the Address information page for details.


When I try to create a password, it still 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. For example, the string "xyzzy" is a term from an early computer game and has found its way into password cracking dictionaries, so it is not a suitable password.

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 Challenge-Response, you can reset your password online instantly. Otherwise, obtain a PennKey Setup Code to reset your password. For details, see Set/Reset Your Password.

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 Set/Reset Your 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 ISC 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 (PennInTouch, PennPortal, 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. More information is available at

How can I tell if my PennKey works?

Try the Test Your PennKey page. If you can authenticate successfully on this page, your PennKey is valid.

I used my PennKey six months ago, but now it's not working. Why?

Persistent PennKeys, the kind issued to faculty, staff, students, and alumni, generally do not expire. Non-persistent PennKeys, issued to individuals with a short-term relationship to the University, expire on the date indicated at the time the key was created. Non-Persistent PennKeys start with a "g" followed by seven digits. All PennKeys are subject to suspension for security reasons.

To verify that your PennKey is working, visit the Test your PennKey & password link. If your PennKey does not work with the test application, you'll need to reset your password. If it does work, you'll need to contact the service owner of the service you are unable to access in order to obtain authorization to use that service.

I verified my PennKey at the PennKey test page, but I still can't access KnowedgeLink . 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. Avoid requesting another PennKey Setup Code until you determine a general failure to access more than one PennKey-protected resource, because doing so will freeze your PennKey (until you use the Setup Code to reset your PennKey password).