Password management can be a real pain. Luckily, we’ve got password managers to help us keep secure and follow best practices. If you’re already using a password management app, you’re on the right track. Now it’s time to take a look at how your chosen service stacks up. And if you’re not using a password manager, there’s no better time to get started. Let’s go!
Still the best, still the gold standard. Our pick for 2020 is 1Password!See Full Review
I’ve been studying online privacy for nearly a decade. During that time, I’ve tested dozens of password managers, several of which have fully fledged reviews on this site.
SmartPrivacy is reader supported and completely independent. We have no financial relationship with any of the password managers listed on our site. We don’t take money for reviews, we don’t get paid for referring affiliate sales, and we do not own or have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned.
This site is entirely the work of one individual. It’s useful to have a single author review all of the services and rank them accordingly. It’s very difficult to agree on subjective criteria, and as such, multiple author blogs or publications often suffer from fragmented viewpoints.
Modern password managers are very feature rich, and understanding the technology behind them can be difficult. However, the good news is that you don’t really need to.
Most password managers encrypt your data so that unauthorized parties can’t read it, even if they gain access to it. The most common encryption scheme is a combination of AES-256 bit encryption, salted hashing, and PBKDF2 SHA-256.
In terms of features, a password manager commonly employs the use of a single password, which you use to unlock your vault where the rest of your passwords are stored.
Most services have desktop apps that can be easily accessed with a keyboard shortcut. Mobile apps are common, as long as you’re using Apple iOS or Android devices.
Most services have browser plugins, which enable quick autofill mechanisms that do not require you to type or copy and paste your logins. Note that this is also useful because it effectively stops keyloggers from harvesting your credentials, as they are not typed.
It is common for password managers to carry a monthly or yearly subscription to maintain access. Many popular services maintain a secure sync service that allows you access to your passwords on all of your devices.
In terms of other features, here is a brief list of common ones:
Unlike most review sites, I actually installed and used all of these password managers. Where necessary, I paid for the premium versions and upgrades to evaluate the features. Before I embarked on this journey, I had used 1Password for a number of years — so it was easy for me to export my passwords and import them into each of the services as I tested them.
I attempted to use the service solely for at least 3 days. I spend a lot of time on my desktop and mobile devices, so this gave me a very good basis to form an opinion. Each service was used for hundreds of login scenarios and every nook and cranny was explored.
I went further and looked at the companies behind the products. I evaluated any support materials, customer forums, social media channels, and of course, reddit threads. I sought to understand what issues were common, and how others viewed these products.
Out of all of the services that we tested, 1Password was the best solution for most people. It’s by far the best for users of macOS and iOS devices, but it’s multi-platform support is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s reliable, user friendly, and the sync service is top notch.
Dashlane does arguably more than any other password manager, but the problem is it doesn’t do anything above and beyond what competing products do. That said, if you want to download one app to rule them all, or suggest such a thing to a non-techie relative, Dashlane is a good way to shoehorn in light VPN usage, breach scanning, and other password hygiene functions.
Despite its shortcomings, LastPass has an excellent reputation among PC users and has a variety of features that are exclusive to the platform. While it doesn’t beat 1Password in a head to head, it’s compelling enough for Windows users to take a peek.
Bitwarden was by far the best open source password manager that we tested. The product has outstanding platform support, a self hosted version, and very reasonable personal licensing for premium features.