We’re just gonna say it: Creating strong, complex passwords — and then actually remembering what those passwords are — has become a huge pain in the ass.
The well-known advice is that you shouldn’t use the same password for everything because it’s not safe. This is definitely true: According to Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, 81% of hacking related breaches involved the misuse of stolen or weak credentials — AKA crappy passwords. And we probably don’t have to tell you this, but having your money or identity stolen isn’t exactly a good time.
Remembering your complex, unique passwords for dozens of different sites is nearly impossible, especially when password requirements sound more like the recipe for a potion. Uppercase letter, number, symbol, eye of newt, etc.
And that’s where password managers come in.
Because without one, logging in usually goes something like this:
1. You enter 10 different passwords and they’re all wrong
2. You try to change your password to a new one that you know
3. “New password cannot be the same as old password.”
But with a password manager, all you have to do is remember one master password — and they’ll autofill the rest for you, plus more security stuff you probably didn’t even think of. It’s like keeping a list of passwords in your phone’s notes, except losing your phone won’t mean that your entire life is about to be hacked.
Things to consider when choosing a password manager:
Do you want passwords to be remembered on your phone and laptop? If so, you’ll need to make sure the password manager allows syncing on multiple devices. (As you’ll see, most free versions other than LastPass do not allow more than one device.)
Are you storing passwords just for personal use or do you need to share with a group?
Two-factor authentication: Using the Google Authenticator app, an external device, or something similar, does the password manager require a second form of insurance to make sure that it’s actually you trying to log in? Without this, if someone gets ahold of your master password, they have access to all of your stuff.
Emergency contacts: If you forget your master password, you need to make sure you’re not completely screwed. Many password managers are equipped with emergency contacts, which are basically the password version of writing someone into your will. Here is where you give a trusted friend, family member, or boss access to your master password in the event that you can’t provide it.
We’ve sifted through six of the best password managers out there to give you a rundown on what each plan offers, so you can find the one that fits your needs.
Top of the line, but one the pricier side
One of the most well-rounded options of the bunch is Dashlane, one of PC Mag’s Editor’s Choice picks. With one of the slickest looking and most user-friendly interfaces (including 11 language options), Dashlane Premium makes managing passwords on multiple devices a piece of cake.
Once you install the Dashlane app, it can be accessed by a dropdown menu in your browser toolbar or a standalone browser extension (available on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari for iOS devices — yes, even the Apple Watch). Dashlane gives you the option to import passwords from any site, and also allows you to import passwords from other password managers. After importing passwords from all of your sites, you can separate them into categories (like banks and shopping, social media, etc.), and Dashlane will let you know if it thinks any are too weak. If they are, Dashlane can generate a super random, strong password for you. For extra security, turn on two-factor authentication using Google Authenticator.
Premium also offers unlimited password sharing — just enter their email address and specify what they’re allowed to do with the password (which seems simple, but a lot of password managers make the whole sharing thing pretty difficult). You can also set up Emergency Contacts here.
As one of the most all-encompassing options, it’s also one of the priciest coming in at $39.99/year. However, for this many features and the extreme simplicity, we’d say it’s worth it. Sign up for Dashlane Premium here.
Another Editor’s Choice from PC Mag is Sticky Password Premium. For those who are borderline obsessed with cybersecurity, this may be your best bet. It stores an encrypted copy of your data in the cloud, and the only way you can get to it is with your online password and master password. And, for extra extra security, you can also opt for secure no-cloud sync. Here, your devices will sync any time they’re in the same Wi-Fi network, and your data never leaves your devices. As for two factor authentication? Unlock a Sticky Password using your master password, plus a time-sensitive password via your smartphone that updates every 30 seconds.
Sticky Password Premium is $10 cheaper than Dashlane, can be installed on MacOS, iOS, Windows, and Android devices, and automatically syncs all devices together when the master password is entered. Sticky Password Premium can import and manage bookmarks and passwords across common internet browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc., and also supports more obscure browsers like SeaMonkey. Sticky Password will offer to generate strong passwords and also supports app passwords.
Fun fact: For each subscription, Sticky Pass Premium donates a portion of the money to a manatee protection fund. If you didn’t think it was a great choice before, we bet you do now.
Sign up for Sticky Password Premium for $29.99/year here.
Another Editor’s Choice from PC Mag is Keeper Security & Digital Vault. Recently upgraded, this password manager sports a polished look with the color scheme of your choice, and is an excellent, all-encompassing choice. Keeper is not messing around.
When we say all-encompassing, we mean it: Keeper has a broad selection of native apps for macOS, iOS, Windows, Windows Phone, Android, Kindle, and Linux, as well as browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Internet Explorer — so there’s never a device left out. One unique feature is Keeper’s Zero Knowledge philosophy: meaning the user and the user only knows the master password, no info is remembered in the cloud, and it can only be decrypted with that password or by answering a security question. Other password managers have an automatic password update feature, which allows the company to know your master password. However, when it is time to update, Keeper can generate a new password for you.
Keeper is not only a place to store passwords, but also a place to store your private documents, photos, and other files — it’s like the hardcore version of putting a passcode on your phone so no one can see all of the weird pictures you’ve saved. The amount of file storage available depends on what subscription you choose, and Keeper offers three: an individual plan and a business plan, both $29.99/year, as well as a five-license family plan for $59.99/year. The family plan includes 10GB of storage, making it a pretty sweet deal. If your family shares a lot of logins for things like Netflix or Wi-Fi, Keeper’s Family Plan is 100% your best bet.
Sign up for Keeper Security Unlimited for $29.99/year or Keeper Security Family for $59.99/year here.
Another strong contender is Password Boss Premium v2.0. Possibly the nicest interface to look at (other than Dashlane), Password Boss does basically everything you’d want a good password manager to do — it even supports MacOS and iOS devices in its new version, which it previously lacked. Now, Password Boss Premium can sync across all devices, storing your data in the cloud using government level encryption (according to the website).
When you go on a secure site that you haven’t been on yet, Password Boss will offer to save the login info, and then will automatically log you in every time you go on that site. Once a password is saved, you can create folders and separate your credentials into categories by dragging and dropping. Aside from passwords, Password Boss will also store important info like bank account and credit card information, IDs, passports, or insurance info, and personal info like addresses, phone numbers, or random notes that you’d like to keep private.
Password Boss also offers team plans, available in both Standard and Premium tiers with team-based sharing for five or more people. Fun fact: Charities, schools, and churches can apply to receive Password Boss for free.
Sign up for Password Boss Premium v2.0 for $29.99/year here.
A reliable, budget friendly option is LastPass Premium. This ultra user-friendly app has a few different plans offering various sharing features, so you’re sure to find something that closely fits your password needs. The LastPass app can be installed on MacOS, iOS, Windows, and Android and can run its plug-in on Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera.
Pro tip: LastPass’ free version is seriously impressive. Ideal for a single person’s personal use, it offers a ton more than the other free password managers out there, including syncing across multiple devices (a true rarity for a free version), two-factor authentication, single sign-on, and emergency access.
If you’re dealing with business and multiple employees storing their passwords, the Premium plan is probably more fitting. You’ll be able to create a digital contingency plan with others for emergency access, generate strong passwords, get extra secure multi-factor authentication, plus LastPass for apps. At $24/month, it’s also cheaper than the premium plans from most competitors. Once in a while, you may come across a website with a layout so weird, some password managers literally don’t recognize it. Fortunately, LastPass offers a manual save option in every password entry box.
For $48/month, LastPass also offers a family version with a family dashboard and unlimited shared folders. Up to six users will get Premium accounts and have access to group passwords to things like Netflix, WiFi, and TV, and more private credentials like bank account info. There are also business plans available.
Sign up for LastPass Premium for $24/year or LastPass Family for $48/year here.
If you’re looking for a straightforward, nothing fancy password manager that still, you know, works, Zoho Standard is an awesome choice. Have as many passwords as you want, access them from any device with the Zoho extension, enable two factor authentication, and share with your team freely — all for only $1 each month.
Zoho’s Standard Plan will let you know when it’s time to change your password and can generate a new one for you, and allows sharing passwords with third parties who don’t use Zoho. However, if you’re using Zoho for work and have a team larger than five, you might want to bump up to the professional plan, which is Zoho’s most popular service. By paying $4 each month, you can share chambers (password groups), which can speed up the process significantly if your teams all have separate logins for multiple websites. Zoho Professional also allows for the “glass account” to be broken in case of an emergency, which Zoho Standard cannot do.
While Zoho’s vault does allow storing of private data like bank accounts or health care info, it won’t auto fill these for you in web pages. Sites with two-page logins like Gmail or Yahoo also give Zoho a little trouble, so keep that in mind if you use those email services. Zoho does not import passwords from browsers like the other services mentioned above, but once they are manually entered once, autofill steps in.
Sign up for Zoho Standard for $12/year or Zoho Professional for $48/year here.
Another affordable option comes in the form of one of the oldest password managers: RoboForm 8 Everywhere, a 15+ year old manager that recently got an upgrade. It works on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Linux devices, supports browser extensions and can import passwords from Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer, and other password managers. Compared to competitors’ interfaces, RoboForm’s is a little all over the place — but the same basic ideas are there.
Unlike Zoho, RoboForm saves logins and passwords, as well as addresses and phone numbers (yours or other people’s), credit card numbers, and any other fields that you’re constantly filling in manually. Just use the toolbar to choose the credentials you need, and RoboForm will fill in the blanks. It even has an option to remember the answer to your security question, which is kind of convenient, but also kind of counterproductive. RoboForm will also generate passwords (with tougher requirements than most competitors), back up your data in the cloud, and designate “digital heirs” as your emergency contacts. A family plan is also available for $39.90/year, giving five users Everywhere licenses and secure sharing of common logins.
As for two-factor authentication, Roboform doesn’t operate like most of the others in the bunch. The closest thing to that is One-Time Password, which sends a temporary password to the email address connected with the Roboform account any time a new device tries to log in.
Learn more and sign up for Roboform 8 Everywhere for $19.95/year here.