Dropbox makes its password manager free — but there's a catch

Dropbox open on both a smartphone and a Windows laptop.
(Image credit: Nopparat Khokthong/Shutterstock)

Perhaps taking advantage of LastPass's recent self-inflicted public-relations disaster, Dropbox is making a limited version of its password manager available to free users starting next month.

"In early April we're rolling out Dropbox Passwords to all Dropbox users," states a post today (March 16) on the official Dropbox blog. "Now, with a free Dropbox Basic plan, you can try a limited version of Passwords."

How limited? You'll be able to store up to 50 username-password credential sets and will be able to sync new and changed passwords across three of your devices, whether it be computers, tablets or smartphones. Dropbox says you can "access" the password list from "anywhere."

That's not a bad deal for someone who already has a free Dropbox account (standard data-storage limit 2GB) and doesn't have a lot of online accounts. "Grandparents come to mind," quipped The Verge.

But frequent users of online services — i.e., most people reading this news item — likely have a lot more than 50 online accounts. 

If so, then you can upgrade to Dropbox's paid plans, which ain't cheap, to get the unlimited version of the Dropbox password manager. The Dropbox Personal Plus plan gives you 2TB of syncing storage for $12 a month or $120 a year.

Most paid password managers cost a lot less than that. LastPass and 1Password each cost $36 per year, and Keeper undercuts those by a buck (eight dollars if you're a Tom's Guide reader). All three are high on our list of the best password managers and will let you sync all your passwords across all your devices. 

Until today (March 16), you would have been able to get that same unlimited universal syncing with LastPass's free tier. But that was too good to last. 

LastPass is reverting to its previous policy of limiting free users to one "type" of device — either PCs, Macs, Windows tablets and Linux boxes on one side, or smartphones, iPads and Android tablets on the other. We're sure it's just a coincidence that Dropbox announced its own free tier on the day the LastPass free plan became more restrictive.

LastPass's announcement of the imminent end of the free lunch created a predictable wave of online outrage. Many people assumed that LastPass was eliminating its free service altogether. Some online pundits oddly recommended a switch to 1Password, which is a fine password manager but has no free tier at all. 

If you still want everything for nothing in a password manager, we can recommend Bitwarden, whose free tier also syncs everything everywhere, or Norton Password Manager, which is entirely free. For now, that is. 

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.