Best Password Managers 2017

With a password manager, you won't need to remember unique, long, complex passwords for every online account. The software will remember it for you, strengthening your password security and minimizing your risk the next time there's a massive data breach. You need to remember only a single "master" password to the password manager itself.

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Based on our extensive testing of seven services, focusing on ease of use, platform support, security and overall performance, the best overall password manager is LastPass, which offers an ideal combination of ease of use, convenience and security. [NOTE April 4, 2017: LastPass has patched a recent security flaw that opened up LastPass desktop browser extensions to attack. LastPass mobile apps were not affected.]

Dashlane was a close runner-up, thanks to its nifty ability to reset all your passwords at once.

We also liked True Key's forward-looking biometric authentication, Keeper's simplicity and Sticky Password's user-friendliness, although each lacked features we consider essential.

Two other password managers are best suited for niche segments: 1Password for Mac users, and KeePass for tech-savvy users of Linux and other open-source software.

What to Look For

All seven password managers we've reviewed secure your data, both on your machine and in the cloud, with the toughest form of encryption in wide usage today. All have software for Windows, Mac OS X, Android and iOS. All have free options, though only KeePass is entirely free. All can be installed on an unlimited number of devices for a single (usually paid) account, and most can store an unlimited number of passwords.

All of the password managers we reviewed can also generate new, strong passwords for you (though not always on the mobile version), and some will alert you to the latest data breaches. Most offer a two-factor authentication option for master passwords. Many offer to save your personal details, credit-card numbers and other frequently used information so that they can quickly fill out online forms for you. Finally, none can recover your master password for you if you forget it, although some let you reset that password to something else.

Cloud vs. Local Management

1Password and KeePass primarily store the user's "vault" of passwords and other sensitive information locally, i.e. on one of the user's own devices. There's a security advantage to that, as none of the data has to ever reach the internet, but it can be a hassle to synchronize the vault with other devices.

Far more convenient are cloud-based password managers, which include LastPass, Dashlane, Keeper and True Key. These services keep encrypted copies of your vault on their own servers and make sure all your devices are always synced.

The risk, although it's small, is that one of the services could be compromised and your passwords released out into the wild. (The seventh password manager, Sticky Password, can work as either a device-based or cloud-based manager, and there's a somewhat pricey cloud-based subscription option available for 1Password.)

How We Tested

We installed and used all seven password managers on a Windows 8 laptop, an iPad Mini and a Samsung Galaxy S6 Android smartphone. Additional testing was done on an iPhone 6s Plus, a OnePlus One Android smartphone and a Windows 10 laptop.

We took into consideration each service's ease of use, variety and usefulness of features, and its security practices, especially concerning two-factor authentication. Design was noted, but did not factor into our rankings, and price was considered only when two or more premium password managers were otherwise roughly equal.

LastPass

Dashlane

True Key

Keeper

Sticky Password

KeePass

1Password



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4 comments
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  • Paul Wagenseil
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  • publicq
    This article should be updated to include 1Password in the cloud-based managers. They do technically offer a standalone local vault product, but their main product is a cloud-based manager that offers easy syncing between devices (it's hard to even find the standalone version on their site anymore without doing some digging.)
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  • bb2015
    I use Password One on PC and phone, relatively easier to use than others.
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  • Honey8
    I was really hoping this might be more detailed and insightful.
    The review of 1password is out of date. At the end of Feb 2017, a month before this was published on march 30 2017, the developer AgileBits announced subscription based licensing with passwords etc to be synchronised and stored on the developers servers.

    There's almost nothing in this article that speaks to the relative security of these types of software.

    Nothing that addresses the security breaches that have impacted market leaders in the last few months and in the years prior.

    Nothing that addresses the security profile of online developer hosted systems vs achieving multi device synchronisation via iCloud, Dropbox or wifi.

    It's really just a checklist of marketing features.

    There is comment about 2FA without any suggestion that it's only relevant if you have to logon to the developers web site to get your passwords. It's authentication, it's got zip to do with encryption.

    There is no recognition of the demonstrated danger of poorly crafted browser plugins that password managers seem to rely upon. (See recent Tavis Ormandy findings)

    Tom's Guide .... how about a more detailed assessment as a follow up on this basic introduction paper? It would be really helpful.
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