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LastPass Free will force you to choose between mobile, desktop: What to know

The LastPass logo in a stylized web browser under a magnifying glass.
(Image credit: II.studio/Shutterstock)

The best free password manager won't be so free and easy next month. 

Earlier today (Feb. 16) we learned that LastPass will be adding significant restrictions to its LastPass Free service, which for the past few years has provided everything most people could ever need from a password manager.

Beginning March 16, LastPass Free users will no longer be able to sync their passwords, credit-card numbers, notes, addresses and bank-account information across all their devices. 

Instead, they'll be restricted to syncing within a class of device: either desktop and laptop computers, Windows tablets and the browsers running on them, or mobile devices such as smartphones, Android tablets and iPads and smart watches.

This is a throwback to the LastPass policy before November 2016, when the password manager also restricted syncing to one type of device for free users. Many other well-known paid password managers — Dashlane, 1Password, Keeper — prevent their free versions from syncing among any devices at all.

So if you're a LastPass user who syncs among multiple desktops and laptops as well as a couple of smartphones, your LastPass universe will suddenly get a lot smaller unless you upgrade to its $36-per-year paid service. A LastPass Families plan that can be shared among six users is $48 per year.

A couple of scenarios

Here's how LastPass explained the changes in a blog posting today.

"Sarah is a Free user with Computers as her active device type. She can use LastPass on her laptop, desktop and her dad's laptop (anyone's computer!), but she can't use LastPass on her phone, tablet, or smart watch unless she upgrades to LastPass Premium, which has unlimited device type access. 

Steve is a Free user with Mobile Devices as his active device type. He can use LastPass on his iPhone, Android work phone, tablet, and smart watch, but he can't use LastPass on his desktop or laptop unless he upgrades to LastPass Premium, which has unlimited device type access."

The first type of device you log into after March 15 will be the type of device you're limited to, although you'll be able to switch device categories up to three times. You won't lose anything currently in your "vault" of passwords and other items, however.

Free users will also no longer be able to query tech support via email after May 17. Instead, they'll be relegated to forums and FAQs. 

Making more people pay makes financial sense...

To be fair, there hasn't been much reason to upgrade from LastPass Free to LastPass Premium. You do get to use physical security keys for two-factor-authentication, to share items with multiple people, to use 1GB of encrypted file storage and to have someone monitor the "dark web" for your information, but most people won't need those features. 

We also get that LastPass owner LogMeIn has to make money. LogMeIn made that clear when hiked LastPass's paid yearly rates from $12 to $24 and finally to $36 in less than three years. But with the first rate hike, LogMeIn also unleashed free unlimited syncing across all devices. 

... but you do have options

If you're a user of LastPass Free, you have a few options for next month. 

You can continue to use the LastPass free service. If you want to get crafty, you could have two free accounts registered to different email accounts but with identical content to cover both types of devices. You'd just have to remember to make the same password changes at the same time to both accounts.

You could upgrade to LastPass' paid service. Thirty-six dollars a year isn't a huge amount of money. For the moment, LastPass is offering an introductory price of $27 for free users who want to upgrade. 

You could switch to password managers that offer free unlimited syncing. Bitwarden is the new hotness on the block, although its free tier doesn't support two-factor-authentication apps like LastPass Free does. Zoho Vault's free tier does support authenticator apps. 

You could switch to the entirely free KeePass. Like an ancient amulet, KeePass is very old and very powerful. But syncing your KeepPass vault across multiple devices requires lots of add-ons and kludges. Unless you want to surmount daunting technical challenges, it might be best to get something you can just drive off the dealer lot.

You could use web-browser password managers. Chrome, Firefox and Edge all have built-in password managers, and Macs have Keychain. But they limit you to one browser or one manufacturer's devices, and the browser password manager is the first place a lot of malware looks when it wants to steal information.

You could switch to another paid password manager. Dashlane has a ton of features, but it starts at $60 per year. Keeper is a buck cheaper than LastPass Premium at $35 per year, and has excellent security. Mac users swear by 1Password, but it's also $36 per year. 

There are still paid bargains. RoboForm is just $24 per year, and Tom's Guide readers get 30% off. We haven't yet reviewed the aforementioned Bitwarden, but its premium plan has many of the same features as LastPass Premium yet costs only $10 per year.

Paul Wagenseil
Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. That's all he's going to tell you unless you meet him in person.
  • mrmessma
    I sswitched to Bitwarden in 5 min, couldn't have been easier. They have a page for importing from lastpass.
    Reply
  • Rick Caborn
    The only thing that bugs me about this change is the fact that LastPass is opting to effectively hide a past blog post about making multi-device access free by redirecting requests for that post to this new post.

    They should be strong and keep the old article active, but maybe modify it to show that it's out of date. They shouldn't try to hide the fact that they are removing a feature that was added in order to gain new free users.

    The URL of the old post is http://blog.lastpass.com/2016/11/get-lastpass-everywhere-multi-device-access-is-now-free/ And yeah, it's definitely giving a 301 redirect to the new article: https://blog.lastpass.com/2021/02/changes-to-lastpass-free/
    If anyone would like to read the old article, you can do so here: https://web.archive.org/web/20201108165243/http://blog.lastpass.com/2016/11/get-lastpass-everywhere-multi-device-access-is-now-free/
    BTW, no sour grapes here. I pay to use LastPass and I love it. I just dislike the approach of fishing for users with a free feature and then forcing those users to pay to retain that feature.
    Reply
  • TonyVov
    admin said:
    Password manager LastPass is cutting back its free plan so that it will no longer sync across all user devices. Here's what that means for you.

    LastPass Free will force you to choose between mobile, desktop: What to know : Read more
    I switched to Bitwarden, on PC and on Android, find the hidden form fill in ADVANCED/OPTIONS to make life a lot easier. So far working with a low/no learning curve andthere is a simple export/import from LastPass. to get you started.
    Reply
  • JLTG
    MORE OF A CONCERN: LASTPASS FINGERPRINT LOGIN HAS BEEN BROKEN NOW FOR 3 MONTHS IN CHROME AND FIREFOX AND THEY DON'T SEEM TO HAVE A CLUE ABOUT HOW TO FIX IT.
    I have been a very happy LastPass user for some time. I subscribe to the Premium service because I want the fingerprint login capability. (My vault key is 64 bytes long!) So, it's been very frustrating and annoying that this feature has been broken since December 2020 in their Chrome and Firefox extensions on Windows 10. I have communicated many times to tech support and they just give me boilerplate responses or a workaround that doesn't work.

    For Firefox, you can rollback to version 4.58.0.4 (available directly from Mozilla) and it will work again. I presume an earlier version of the Chrome extension would work as well, except the only place that seems to have it is crx4chrome.com . But obviously, I'm not going to get this kind of thing from a 3rd party source.

    This failure of LastPass should concern people more than their current change in policy to require Premium for syncing across devices, etc. (Frankly, I think that's entirely appropriate for them or any other similar product to do.) It really questions the caliber of their development team that they can't make a previously working feature work again when the problem is entirely in their own code. And that's a big worry with a security product as critically important as this.
    Reply