How to choose the best password manager for you

Why use a password manager? It can be hard to come up with and remember unique and secure passwords for all the websites we use nowadays. But as soon as we get lazy – using the same password on multiple sites or a weak password like Password123 – we leave our data vulnerable to hackers and other cyber criminals. One solution is to use a password manager.
Symbols for password lock and online services over image of man’s hands holding and using a tablet computer
A password manager gives you a master password to securely unlock online services

How does a password manager work?

If this is your first-time hearing of a password manager, don’t worry! A password manager acts as a bank for all your passwords. It saves and stores all your passwords in one place so that it is easier for you to find them later. To access a password manager you would have to enter a ‘master password’ which will grant you access to see your passwords.

What does a password manager do?

It uses extremely strong encryption to protect all of your passwords on your device and its servers. A password manager not only generates secure passwords for you, but also keeps them stored and updated in a virtual “vault”. To use a password saved in this password keeper, you enter a master password. The benefit is clear – you only have to remember one secure password instead of dozens. Some password managers even let you access your saved passwords using fingerprint or facial recognition. Syncing your passwords across all your devices is also possible, although it is usually only offered as a paid feature.

Best free password managers in 2023

You don’t have to break the bank to have a good password manager. There are many free options out there– even ones that include two factor authentication. We have curated a list of five widely recommended free password managers in 2023.
  • Norton Password Manager
  • Dashlane
  • LastPass
  • Bitwarden
  • Keeper
In most cases, a "free" password manager will offer certain features in a scaled-down model with the option to upgrade to a paid plan to unlock more functionality. Whether the free version is sufficient to your needs is up to you. See the table below for an overview of some password managers' pricing plans.

How to choose a password manager

The top six features to look for in a password manager:
  1. End-to-end encryption
  2. Random password generator
  3. Audited by an independent third party
  4. Supports the operating system(s) you use
  5. Supports extension(s) for your internet browser(s) of choice
  6. Two-factor authentication
When choosing a password manager, you should also consider what features will make it most convenient for you to use, with an emphasis on security. For example, do you want it to save your personal details like credit-card numbers and quickly fill in online forms for you? Would you prefer having your passwords stored locally on your device or in the cloud, i.e. on the password manager’s secure server, to allow for easier syncing between your devices? A good password manager will send out security alerts about data breaches and notify you about weak or reused passwords. It will also allow for the sharing of passwords between family members or other trusted friends.

Can’t I just store my passwords in my browser?

You may be wondering why you need a stand-alone password manager when most web browsers will suggest strong passwords and remember them for you. However, internet browsers are simply not as secure as a password manager: anyone who uses your computer could steal your passwords, and there is malware that allows hackers to gain access quite easily. Plus, you won’t always have access to your passwords on all devices.

Are password managers safe?

You may be wondering why you need a stand-alone password manager when most web browsers will suggest strong passwords and remember them for you. However, internet browsers are simply not that secure: anyone who uses your computer could steal your passwords, and there is malware that allows hackers to gain access quite easily. Plus you won’t always have access to your passwords on all devices. The password managers listed above use extremely strong encryption, undergo regular third-party audits, and are transparent about their data protection.  In other words, a password manager is a much more secure option than storing your password in a browser or reusing the same password on multiple websites.

Can password managers be hacked?

 Unfortunately, in the age of cybercriminals and scammers, password managers are not immune to cyber-attacks. Generally, hacking a password manager requires a lot of time and effort and it is not highly likely that your password manager will be hacked. If your master password is discovered, then your password manager can definitely be subject to hacking. This is why it is important to make a unique, long, and strong master password. Your password manager can also be hacked by malware that finds its way onto your device. To prevent this from happening, antivirus software will be your best friend.

What to do if your password manager is hacked

If your password manager has been compromised, the first step is to take immediate action. Change your master password for your password manager and subsequentially change all your passwords that were compromised. Keep in mind you should ensure your passwords are strong with a healthy mix of letter, numbers, and special characters.
 
Pro tip: Are you having trouble coming up with a secure master password you can remember? Review what makes a strong password in our explainer: How secure is my password?

What does a password manager cost?

The pricing models of the most highly recommended password managers vary. LastPass, Dashlane, and Bitwarden offer a lot of excellent features in their basic free versions, with paid upgrades offered to users who would like to unlock more features. 1 password, which is known for its strong encryption and user-friendly interface, does not offer a free version – after a 14-day free trial, users can select between several pricing plans and versions.
 
Product Pricing Pros Cons
1Password Starting at $35.88/year after 14-day free trial 1Password is widely recommended for its user-friendly interface, excellent organizational tools and practical Travel Mode. Strong encryption for local and cloud password storage. No scaled-down free version is offered.
LastPass Free version for either mobile or desktop
 
Paid packages from $34.80/year
LastPass is a favorite due to its extensive two-factor-authentication options and consistent design throughout the platform. Popular tools include secure sharing and a password strength report. As of March 2021, users have to choose between using the mobile or desktop version for free – syncing passwords between different types of devices is now a paid feature.
Bitwarden Free; for $10 a year, you can add 1GB of encrypted file storage, among other extras Bitwarden is open-source and very secure. It offers  inexpensive premium pricing, and the virtually  unlimited free version synchronizes passwords with all your devices. Although it is often mentioned as a LastPass alternative, the no-frills interface is not always intuitive to use, causing occasional difficulties for beginning users. Form-filling functionality is also limited on mobile apps.
Dashlane Limited free version (50 passwords on one device)
 
Premium from $59.88/year
Dashlane has won praise for its intuitive interface across all platforms with cross-platform syncing. Not only does it offer secure password sharing, but it retains full history of your passwords and files. The free version of Dashlane limits user to one device, which means no free password syncing. Unfortunately, the paid version is more expensive than comparable competitors. Many reviews also complain that the web form-filling function is limited.
Keeper Limited free version (unlimited passwords on one device)
 
Paid packages from  $34.99/year
Very strong security paired with a streamlined look. Keeper has received solid reviews across the board for its apps, browser extensions and web interface. No cross-device syncing in the free version. Doesn't autofill personal information, a feature offered by most other password managers.
Norton Password Manager Completely free version Norton Password Manage is a browser extension that saves your passwords and enters them in an instant.
The built in password generator also assists with making secure passwords with one click.
2FA secure protection.
No options of master password recovery if the master password is forgotten. No password sharing.
 
Before you go sign up for a password manager, please leave us some feedback below! Still don’t have an account with us? Sign-up here today and add your mail.com account password to your password manager.

This article first appeared on November 10, 2021 and was updated on August 31, 2023

Images: 1&1/Shutterstock

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