Using “password” as your password has never been a good idea. If you’re having trouble remembering your passwords (or coming up with good ones to begin with), a password manager can take care of that for you.
Password managers let you securely store all of your passwords, payment info, and other personal information in an encrypted database that only you can access with your master password. These managers can also generate strong new passwords and allow you to share passwords with other registered users under your plan.
Most of them will automatically populate your saved usernames and passwords onto your favorite sites, so you don’t have to type them in manually every time. The best ones are compatible with all major devices and browsers as well, so you can use the services on your Windows laptop and your iPad.
It’s also good practice to keep up with news surrounding password manager security breaches and incidents. While they are safe against the majority of attacks, people with malicious intent are always looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to other people’s private information. This was the case with LastPass in late 2019.
What About My Browser’s Password Manager?
Modern browsers have basic password managing capabilities, so you might be thinking “Why not just use that one instead of shelling out for a dedicated manager?” While the lure of a free password manager is tempting, it’s also much less secure and therefore hardly worthwhile. Your browser is open to security vulnerabilities and its password management options are skeletal at best compared to a dedicated one.
By limiting yourself to a specific browser’s password manager, you won’t be able to share passwords with others, control the parameters of its password generation function (like it’s length or what types of characters it uses), store other personal information, or use your passwords on other operating systems. Plus, once you’re logged in to your account, there isn’t anything else in place to prevent someone from accessing your stored passwords.
What to Look for in a Password Manager
The best password managers should facilitate your online security without ever getting in your way. Beyond that, here are the basic features you should expect to see in these services.
- Form Fill Capacity: In addition to providing you with a place to safely store your passwords, the best managers also make it easy for you to use them when you’re online. When you visit your favorite websites, your saved username and password should automatically appear on a page’s login so you won’t have to type it in.
- Password Suggestion: If you’re creating a new account or changing the password for an existing one, you’ll need a strong password. You can get one automatically generated for you through the password manager. It should then prompt you to save your new login info as well.
- Intuitive Interface: Just because a password manager is more of a utility application than a social one doesn’t mean it should be boring, ugly, or difficult to use. The best online password managers keep things cleanly organized and labeled so you can find the information you’re looking for. It should also offer an easy way to connect with customer support if you need.
- Device Compatibility: If you’re paying for a password manager, you should be able to access it on every device and browser you use for well-rounded protection. Some options, like KeePass, also give you the option to store all of your passwords locally instead of in the cloud for more advanced security.
- Optional (but Handy) Premium Features: For an additional cost, most services offer a premium version of their service which comes stocked with nice bonuses. These typically include things like unlimited password storage, a VPN service, breach monitoring, or credit or identity monitoring.
Best Overall Password Manager: 1Password
1Password (starts at $2.99/mo) is widely regarded as the best overall password manager, and we agree. It offers all of the standard things you’d expect from a good such a service, including unlimited passwords and items, and even 1 GB for document storage. It is available on all major operating systems and as a browser extension, so you are totally covered. It even has command-line integration.
1Password helps keep your information protected with two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption, and only you will have access to your information via your master password. One of the service’s best features, Travel Mode, provides extra security while traveling. When activated, it deletes sensitive data from your device (handy for when you’re dealing with border agents) then lets you restore it after.
Best Premium Password Manager: Dashlane
Dashlane (Free, $4.99/mo) is feature-rich, beautiful, and full of extras. The limited basic option supports 50 passwords, one device, automatic form filling, and two-factor authentication. It’s decent for a free option and a great choice for individuals.
But where Dashlane really shines, however, is with its two premium plans. The Premium plan offers everything the free plan does plus a VPN and dark web monitoring, and the Premium Plus plan also tacks on credit monitoring, identity theft insurance (up to $1 million through AIG), and identity restoration support. Dashlane costs more than other password management services out there, but the extras offered make it worthwhile for those that need them, and the free plan is stellar for those who don’t want extras.
Best Budget Password Manager: Keeper
Keeper (starts at $2.49/mo) offers a variety of plans that cover personal, family, student, business, and enterprise needs. The personal plan covers unlimited password storage (as well as for identity and payment info), unlimited devices and syncing, emergency access, and secure record sharing. It also offers a free basic plan that only supports one device.
Keeper is cross-platform, so it works on all major device operating systems and browsers. It supports biometric access, employs two-factor authentication, and has a version history feature wherein you can restore previous versions of your records when you need it. For further security, you can set an automatic logout timer or enable the Self-Destruct option, which automatically deletes all Keeper files stored on your device once it detects five failed login attempts. Keeper’s focus on security as well as password management makes it a good option for those who need the extra protection.
Best Local Storage Password Manager: Enpass
Yes, Enpass ($12/mo options) is a solid password manager, but what sets it apart from the pack is that it gives you the option to buy a lifetime license for a low upfront cost – $60. That’s about the cost of a single year subscription for most other password managers, so if you’ve got the cash (or would simply appreciate having one less subscription to worry about, it is the option that makes the most financial sense.
Beyond pricing, Enpass has your back in regards to password storage and generation, autofill, and biometric access. You can keep your personal information organized in separate storage vaults within the service, which is handy if you have tons of personal logins as well as some for work, or everyone in your family can have their own vault. Enpass can also run a security audit on your passwords and show you those that are weak and would benefit from being changed.
However, one caveat of Enpass is that, for security purposes, it will store your information locally on your device by default rather than in the cloud. You can definitely tell it to sync, but it will have to go through a third-party source (such as Dropbox). It’ll run just like the other password managers once you set that up, though. That being said, Enpass may be a better option for advanced computer users who know how to handle that kind of stuff, and those who are cool using this password manager until the end of time.