If you’re using a different password for all the sites and apps you’re signed up for (and you really should), there are only so many combinations of letters and numbers you can hold in your head at once. The good news is there are plenty of tools out there to remember your passwords and secure them for you, and we’ve picked out five of the best.
While we’re here, we should remind you to set up two-factor authentication, or 2FA, on all of the accounts that you have that support it (which should be most of them). Enabling 2FA means that if your username and password should be somehow exposed or guessed, there’s still an extra barrier preventing unauthorized access to your account.
Browsers are getting better and better at being able to manage your passwords for you. While we think investing in a dedicated password manager is worth your while, the tools that come as part of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge and other browsers cover the basics and are free to use too.
If you are going to use your browser’s integrated password-saving capabilities, make sure your mobile or computer user account is protected with a master PIN or password, otherwise anyone who sits down with your device is going to have access to Facebook, Gmail, and any other sites that have auto-login enabled.
No matter which browser you use, passwords can be synced across mobile and desktop devices. In the case of Google (with Chrome and Android) and Apple (with Safari, macOS and iOS), you can actually sync and recall passwords for apps outside of your browser too—so your Google account or your Apple ID effectively acts as your authentication for apps such as Netflix and Spotify.
1Password has been one of the biggest names in password managers for several years now, and for good reason. It’s quick, it’s well designed, and it works just about anywhere you might want to input a password. It can generate strong passwords for you, warn you when your passwords are included in a data breach, and even does double duty as a two-factor authentication app when needed.
The family sharing options that 1Password offers are particularly good, letting you manage passwords and all the other types of data that 1Password can hold (such as passport details) across several different users. We also like the Travel Mode that lets you temporarily unsync certain pieces of information while you’re traveling, just in case your phone should get stolen or lost.
There’s no free option for 1Password, but you can try it for free for 30 days. A personal plan starts at $4 a month, though you can effectively get it for $3 a month if you pay for a whole year at a time. The family plan, with support for up to 5 family members, costs $7 a month ($5 a month if you pay annually).
LastPass is always near the top of most password manager round-ups and it’s not difficult to see why—it’s intuitive, elegant, and free to use if you only need it on one machine. Like most other password managers, it can securely store notes, payment details and other sensitive information as well as passwords. The apps are well built, easy to get around and available on all the common platforms.
The service will suggest passwords for you if you’re lacking inspiration, as well as warn you about data breaches with your credentials included. Two-factor authentication is supported, and the LastPass developers have done a very good job with the central management console so you can easily see all of your stored information at once (and share it with others, if you have a family plan).
Bonus points to LastPass for offering a free plan, but some of the best features (including data breach warnings and password sharing) require a subscription. Payment options start at $3 a month for individuals and $4 a month for families (of up to six people), which is an up-front cost of $36 or $48.
Dashlane is another comprehensive password manager that covers just about every requirement you might have. There is a free tier available here, but you’re limited to a single device and 50 passwords; paying removes those restrictions, and also gets you access to a few additional features (such as alerts if any of your passwords and usernames get leaked out on the web).
Payments, IDs, receipts, and other digital data can be securely stored alongside your password, and the clean interface (which is available on every major platform) makes accessing your data very straightforward. There’s support for secure password sharing and two-factor authentication, and you can opt to keep your passwords in encrypted vaults on each device if you want, rather than syncing them via the cloud.
The free tier is a good way to decide whether or not Dashlane is the password manager for you, and you get 30 days of free access to the premium features when you sign up. If you decide a subscription is worth it, it’ll cost you $60 a year as an individual ($5 a month), or $90 a year for a family plan ($7.49 a month) which covers you and five other people.
One of the newer password managers to arrive on the scene, NordPass comes from the same developer as NordVPN, and offers the same kind of well-designed, intuitive simplicity in its app, too. No matter what platform you’re using NordPass on, you won’t have any problems getting to grips with it, and there’s the option of a free tier.
All the basics are well covered—password syncing across multiple platforms, a password generator, room to securely save notes, credit card details and other information, support for two-factor authentication, and plenty of other features. At the moment NordPass doesn’t alert you if your passwords are involved in data breaches, which is perhaps an indication that it’s still early days for the software.
Most of the features available in NordPass are available to users on the free tier, but you’re limited to using it on one device at a time. As soon as you sign in on a different device, you get logged out of your others. Prices are $5 a month for personal users and start at $4 per month for families of up to five members (though you need to pay for a year up front to take advantage of that pricing).