I have links I want to set up for remote portals, but in order to estimate if it's worth the travel, it would be helpful to know what the odds are of getting a portal key through hacking.

2 Answers 2


Warning: This answer is now very out of date.

The answer by Max now represents the current state of play more accurately.

I recorded and evaluated 238 hacks, 198 of own and 40 of enemy portals. I've found the following frequency of getting a portal key:

  • overall probability of key 16,39%
  • friendly probability of key 16,67%
  • enemy probability of key 15,00%

One can only guess what the real probability is, but I'd guess about 15%.

Edit: Some more details, because I was asked:

The probability does NOT seem to depend on the level or the faction of the portal, although the confidence of this statement is much lower, because there are less samples for each condidtion. But the more samples there are for each condition, the closer the numbers are to the ones I reported above.

Note that this could change with each update, Niantic could just tune some parameters without us noticing. My samples were all collected during March 2013 from the 14th to the 25th.

  • So I can estimate that I will need 7 hacks (or in my case 2 visits, because a portal burns out after 4 hacks) per key. So for 3 keys (2 incoming links and 1 for recharging / defending) I would be looking at about 6 visits (depending on luck). Thanks! May I ask how you recorded the hacks? Plain pen and paper or something more sophisticated? Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 6:35
  • 2
    @RelaXNow Unfortunately, it was not so sophisticated. I wanted to find out something else, so whenever I hacked a portal with 100% charged resonators, I made a screenshot on my mobile of the items I got and then one of the portal itself. Back at home I then entered those information into a table and created formulas to calculate some statistics. I was mainly interested in the distribution of item levels from the hacks.
    – Sentry
    Commented Mar 31, 2013 at 10:10
  • Fantastic. Can you report on the rest of your data? By the way, 15% seems hight to me, and I wonder if there are other confounding variables.
    – nealmcb
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 4:31
  • @nealmcb Well, I could, but the data is far too valuable to just give it away ;) Maybe if you asked the right question here, I could answer it. To problem with statistics is that the more hypothesis you test on the same dataset, the more likely it is to get a false positive. But I've added some more details to my answer now.
    – Sentry
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 14:34
  • 1
    Sentry. This update answer is very out of date and is nothing like the current state of play. Do you have any newer data? If so, it would be great if you could update your answer. Thanks,
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 15:03

If you are going to hack a portal to get a key try the following and the probability will be about 90% to get a key. all you have to do is drop the keys of the portal you want a key from.

  • Could you elaborate? Are you saying that if you already have a key for a portal, dropping it makes you more likely to get another key on your next hack?
    – Tamlyn
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 8:03
  • 2
    Yes, this has been changed. Now you're almost guaranteed to get a key if you don't have a key in your inventory yet. Otherwise you will never get another key. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 11:04
  • Instead of dropping the keys, you can also put them in a capsule.
    – NineBerry
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 14:45
  • I find this hard to believe after failing to get a key four times in a row for a portal I had no key for. I'd like to hear somebody verify this for 2015.
    – c roald
    Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 1:15

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