You’ve decided to tighten up your online security, and that means changing your passwords.
Using the same easy-to-remember password for all your accounts has been convenient, for sure. But it also puts you in a lot of danger.
If that password is leaked in a data breach, a hacker could access any of your accounts. Your email, banking, social media, and online shopping accounts could all be at risk.
All the experts say to use a different, hard-to-guess password for each account.
And that’s easy enough to do just by hitting random keys. “F5jg75Hb94Gggj6C03gL%y” is meaningless gibberish that’s nearly impossible to commit to memory – about as unguessable as you can get.
But there’s one obvious problem: how are you going to remember that password?
And even if you memorize that one, what about the dozens of others you’ll need to create?
Enter the password manager – perhaps the most indispensable security software out there today.
These programs generate secure passwords, encrypt them, store them and sync them across your devices.
They’re like your browser’s auto-fill function, but beefier, brainier and overall better.
We’ve got the lowdown on the most popular password managers, how to use them and what you stand to gain by doing so.
What Are Password Managers?
Back in the day, you’d always hear the advice “never keep all your passwords in one place.”
Today, that’s exactly what you want to do – as long as you use a password manager.
A password manager keeps track of all your passwords for all the sites and apps you use. It encrypts them and stores them securely in the cloud so that only you can access them.
That way, you only need to remember one password – the one that unlocks your password manager.
You can use your own passwords or generate new, secure ones. The choice is yours, and either option takes just a couple of clicks.
When it’s time to log in, your password manager automatically fills in your password. No copy-pasting or memorization required!
Your password manager works across many devices, including your computer, phone, and tablet. It stores your passwords in the cloud, so if your device is stolen or hacked, your passwords are still safe.
Having perfected the art of password storing, today’s password generators have other uses as well.
Many let you store other form data, like addresses and credit card numbers, alongside your passwords. Some allow you to securely store notes and files, too.
Why Should I Use a Password Manager?
You probably don’t think that your accounts are at risk of being hacked. After all, you haven’t angered any programmers or wronged any IT guys recently.
But in reality, every single internet user is a potential victim – including you.
If you’ve ever been involved in a data breach, your email address is out there for anyone to see. Hackers can take that email address and use it in their attempts to access your accounts.
Hopefully, you changed the password that was leaked alongside your email. Hackers will try that email-password combo on many different sites, and they’ll succeed if you reused it.
Even if that fails, the hacker could still access your accounts if you don’t use secure passwords.
A brute-force hacker will attempt to log in with various common passwords. If yours is one of them, your account is now hacked – and any data within it is now compromised.
The obvious solution is to use a different secure password for every account.
But that would involve a superhuman memory (or a lot of sticky notes on your desk). And that’s probably why 60% of internet users reuse passwords on multiple sites.
That’s a scary statistic – and it’s why password managers exist.
They allow you to practice good password security without worrying about forgetting your credentials or other inconveniences.
In fact, you might find that using secure passwords with a password manager is even faster than manually entering insecure, easy-to-remember passwords.
What Are the Best Password Managers?
Sold on password managers? Good – they’re absolutely essential to a safe yet convenient online experience.
But with so many options, which one should you choose?
Here are our top password manager picks. See which one strikes your fancy and give it a whirl – you’ll be glad you did!
For the low, low price of free, you can get started with one of the world’s most popular password managers: LastPass.
Just create one master password and that’s it – LastPass takes care of the rest. It stores your passwords, form details, credit card numbers, and notes, and syncs them across all your devices.
You can manually enter your accounts or have LastPass import them from your email, browser or other password managers. Moving forward, LastPass can save your logins as you create them, with no extra steps required.
LastPass includes a password generator that automatically creates strong passwords on demand.
All your LastPass data is locally encrypted and decrypted with AES-256 – industry-standard encryption that’s widely considered unbreakable.
Local encryption and decryption mean that LastPass never sees your passwords and has no ability to. In the event of a LastPass data breach, your passwords will remain safe, as they can only be viewed on your device.
However, if you do want to let someone else access one of your accounts, LastPass makes it easy.
Its secure sharing function lets you share a password with a trusted friend or family member.
All of the above features are included with a LastPass Free account. But $36 a year gets you LastPass Premium, which comes with even more.
LastPass Premium gives you 1GB of encrypted cloud storage and priority tech support. It also enables multifactor authentication via fingerprint, Sesame or YubiKey for even more security.
And $48 a year unlocks LastPass Families, which allows up to six users to share a LastPass account.
You can share passwords with any or all users, allowing easy yet secure access to shared accounts like Netflix.
LastPass is available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer and Edge. It’s also available as an app for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
Who Should Use LastPass?
If you’re looking for a free password manager that doesn’t skimp on features, LastPass is perfect for you. Its intuitive layout makes it excellent for those without a tech background.
True to its name, 1Password simplifies your life by protecting all your passwords behind one master password.
Just enter that password and 1Password will handle all of your logins for you. It’ll also autofill other form fields, store important documents like passports and act as a secure notepad.
1Password uses AES-256 encryption for all of your data, ensuring that only you can see it. It supports two-factor authentication and lets you log in with your fingerprint on compatible devices.
The Watchtower feature automatically scans the internet for data breaches and notifies you if you’re involved. That way, you can change your password quickly and minimize the damage.
1Password’s Travel Mode feature removes sensitive 1Password data from your device on demand. That way, it’s not compromised by customs or border checks that require your phone to be searched.
Once you’re at your destination, one-click restores your data back to its original state.
All 1Password accounts come with 1GB of encrypted cloud storage. It’s ideal for backing up important documents, sentimental photos and that secret digital diary of yours.
If you ever need to find a previously-used password, 1Password can help. It lets you recover old passwords from up to 365 days ago, making it great for records-keeping and peace of mind.
You can try the full version of 1Password free for 30 days, but after that, you’ll need to pay.
It’ll cost you $36 a year, or $60 a year for the Family plan.
The Family plan lets up to five users share the same 1Password account, and you can add more for $1 per month per user.
You can easily manage who gets access to what, so your personal accounts will still be all yours.
1Password offers apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS and Chrome OS, plus a command-line tool for more technical users. Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, and Opera.
Who Should Use 1Password?
International travelers will love the Travel Mode feature, which protects your data from invasive searches. Users with big families will appreciate the ability to add extra users to 1Password’s Family plan.
But without a permanently free option, 1Password isn’t ideal if you’re not looking to pay for your password manager.
Lightweight, open-source and free, Bitwarden is a fantastic option for anyone in need of a super-private password manager.
Bitwarden is open-source, so anybody can view the source code and verify its security. If you’re a programmer, you can use it to develop your own Bitwarden add-ons, too.
Additionally, Bitwarden allows you to store your passwords on your own cloud server if you wish. If you’re uncomfortable with storing your data in third-party clouds, this option returns full control to you.
Bitwarden supports two-factor authentication with email or an authenticator app like Authy.
The free Bitwarden plan includes unlimited passwords and syncing, a password generator and storage for other form data.
Upgrading to Premium for $10 a year gets you 1GB of encrypted cloud storage and extra two-factor authentication options: Duo Security, YubiKey and FIDO U2F.
If you want to share your account with one other person, you can do so for free. Up to five users can share the $12-a-year Family plan, which also includes 1GB of encrypted cloud storage.
Bitwarden offers Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS apps, as well as a command-line interface. Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge, Safari, Vivaldi, Brave and Tor.
Additionally, any device with a web browser can use Bitwarden through a web app. If you’re on a public computer or using a friend’s laptop, you won’t lose access to your passwords.
Who Should Use Bitwarden?
Fans of free and open-source software will love Bitwarden, as will those who don’t want any data on the cloud. It’s also great for couples who want a free shared account, or families on a budget.
If you use Tor, Bitwarden is an excellent choice. Few password managers provide extensions for this privacy-oriented browser.
Rich in features and uncompromising on security, Dashlane is a fantastic password manager for all types of users.
The Free Dashlane plan lets you generate and store up to 50 passwords on one device. In this regard, it’s much more limited than the other free password managers we’ve covered so far.
However, the Password Changer feature makes up for it. This feature lets you change passwords on hundreds of sites from the Dashlane app, taking the hassle out of securing your accounts.
The $60-a-year Premium plan gives you unlimited passwords on unlimited devices, YubiKey support and priority tech support.
Dashlane Premium also monitors both the regular web and the dark web for data breaches and password leaks that involve you. If it detects one, it alerts you and helps you change your compromised info.
Premium users can save important documents to the Dashlane encrypted cloud for easy access anywhere. Drivers licenses, contracts, passports, insurance cards and more can be securely saved.
But perhaps the most interesting feature is the Dashlane VPN, included with all Dashlane Premium accounts. With the VPN, you can encrypt your web traffic and mask your location and IP address.
This protects you from hackers and other prying eyes on public WiFi, at work and at home. The Dashlane VPN works on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.
Splurge on Dashlane Premium Plus for $120 a year and you’ll also get credit monitoring and identity restoration support. Premium Plus users also get up to $1 million in identity theft insurance coverage.
That makes this plan a pretty sweet deal if you’re interested in really securing your identity.
Dashlane offers apps for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. Linux and Chrome OS are supported only through browser extensions.
Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer and Brave for Android. Opera and Brave for desktop are not officially supported but can still run the extension.
A web app is also available, so you can use Dashlane on other OSes or on shared computers.
Who Should Use Dashlane?
If you have some cash to spare and want extra identity theft protection, Dashlane is for you. It’s also a great option if you want to try out a VPN or keep your data off the dark web.
However, if you’re on a budget, there are other free or cheap options that don’t limit your passwords or devices.
KeePassXC isn’t a password manager for computer newbies or one-click champions. But if you’ve got the tech know-how to set it up, it’s one of the most secure options out there.
Rather than using official syncing servers, KeePassXC is self-hosted.
Your passwords are saved in an encrypted database, which you then upload to a service like Dropbox (or your own server). The KeePassXC client then reads that database file from whichever device it’s running on.
You always remain in full control of that database and the passwords within it – the KeePassXC developers never have access to it.
Two-factor authentication is supported via key file and YubiKey. You can also change the encryption algorithm from AES to Twofish or ChaCha20.
A password generator and password strength meter are both included in KeePassXC.
There’s little in the way of other features, but since KeePassXC is open-source, you’re welcome to add them yourself. The open source code also allows you to verify the program’s security and privacy-friendliness.
KeePassXC is 100% free, with no paid plans available (though donations to the developers are welcome). It works on Windows, macOS and Linux.
There aren’t any official Android or iOS apps, but there are third-party mobile apps that integrate with the KeePassXC database. The developers recommend Strongbox for iOS and Keepass2Android for Android.
Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, Chromium and Vivaldi.
Who Should Use KeePassXC?
Programmers, developers, IT specialists and other computer enthusiasts will enjoy the DIY nature of KeePassXC. It’s also ideal for the most privacy-conscious users as it’s completely self-hosted.
Those without a tech background, though, may find themselves overwhelmed by the configuration process.
Keeper is a business-oriented password manager, but its personal version is, well, a keeper as well.
The free version of Keeper lets you save unlimited passwords and unlimited form data on one device. An autofill function is offered, but only on the mobile apps.
Fingerprint and face ID login is supported, so you can log into the Keeper app without entering your master password. Two-factor authentication is supported via TOTP, SMS and U2F key as well.
And if you’re having trouble coming up with new passwords, the password generator has you covered.
For $30 a year, you can upgrade to Keeper Unlimited, which lets you use the app on unlimited devices.
You can also share access with other securely and set up emergency access for a trusted friend or relative.
In addition to the typical form fields, Keeper Unlimited lets you add custom ones. If you frequently use a site with an unusual field, Keeper can autofill that for you, too.
For $60 a year, you can subscribe to the “Max Bundle.”
This includes Keeper Unlimited plus the KeeperChat private messenger, BreachWatch dark web monitoring and 10GB of encrypted cloud storage.
Keeper works on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS. Browser extensions are provided for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer and Edge.
Who Should Use Keeper?
If you regularly use fingerprint or face ID, you’ll find that Keeper integrates seamlessly with your habits. And the Max Bundle is a good deal if you require extra encrypted storage or a handy encrypted messaging app.
But those in need of a free password manager will probably want to go with one that syncs across multiple devices.
Have you noticed a distinct lack of bears in the password managers we’ve covered so far? If so, take a look at RememBear to fill that void.
Like its competitors, RememBear generates secure passwords and syncs them across your devices. Unlike them, it does so while showing you adorable bears.
It also stores credit cards and encrypts everything end-to-end with AES-256.
RememBear supports face and fingerprint ID and can store two-factor authentication codes. Currently, two-factor authentication isn’t supported for the RememBear app itself.
Uniquely, RememBear includes video game-like achievements for practicing good security. It’s a great way for beginners to get motivated and learn about staying secure online.
The free version of RememBear works on one device – there’s no syncing or backup function.
If you want to use it on multiple devices, you’ll need to pay $36 a year for the Premium version.
RememBear provides apps for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Linux, Chrome OS and other OSes are not currently supported.
Additionally, RememBear offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. However, these extensions require one of the desktop or mobile apps in order to run.
Who Should Use RememBear?
Those who are new to computers or online security will find that RememBear is both a teacher and a tool. It’s also the only password manager we can recommend to those who require bears in their apps.
However, more advanced users may wish to use a password manager with more features.
To Sum it Up
With a password manager, you’ve got no excuse for practicing poor password security.
Thankfully, you won’t need an excuse. These programs do all the heavy lifting for you, from password generation to syncing to recovery.
Many free online security apps pale in comparison to their paid counterparts. But many of the password managers we’ve reviewed offer free options that range from respectable to downright fantastic.
And if you choose to go with a premium option, you’ll get even more benefits – and even more peace of mind.
Whether you pick an open-source app like KeePassXC or Bitwarden, a feature-rich program like LastPass or an all-in-one security package like Dashlane, you can’t go wrong.
Now go get yourself a password manager and turn those terrible passwords into super-secure, ultra-convenient ones!
Summary: Good passwords should be diverse, long and difficult to guess – but that makes them hard to remember. A password manager helps by generating secure passwords and syncing them across all your devices.