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Apple now has a Windows password manager, and this is how it works

Microsoft Windows 11 running on an Apple MacBook laptop.
(Image credit: rawf8/Shutterstock)

In a surprise move, Apple released a password manager for Windows , though it's really something that's best for people who have an iPhone and use Windows only once in a while or at work.

The password manager is buried in the latest update of iCloud for Windows, version 12.5. Windows 10 users can download iCloud for Windows from the Microsoft Store.

Once you install or update iCloud for Windows, you'll see an entry on the iCloud dashboard marked "Passwords." Click on that, and a bare-bones password manager will pop up. It will display all the passwords saved in your iCloud Keychain, and you can add more passwords to the Keychain through this interface.

Ars Technica's Samuel Axon described the password manager as "bare-bones," and that's pretty accurate. As Axon put it, "it does the minimum and nothing else." There's no password generator and no option to store anything but usernames and passwords, such as credit-card numbers or personal information.

Double the browser extensions

You do, however, get the option of installing an Apple Passwords extension for Microsoft Edge. This complements the extension for Google Chrome, which came with iCloud for Windows 12.0. 

The extensions will let you autofill password form fields in both browsers. If you're using Firefox, you'll have to copy-and-paste from the Passwords desktop interface.

"When you enable the iCloud Passwords browser extension, the browser's built-in password-saving feature is turned off," Apple's release notes state. That's a good thing because browsers often don't do a great job of protecting your passwords.

There are more instructions for installing and using iCloud Passwords for PC scattered over the Apple support site, such as here, here and here.

Apple's iCloud Password on a PC is best thought of as a companion app for Apple-first people who have to use a PC at work, or for anyone who has an iPhone but uses Windows as their primary desktop OS. 

iCloud Passwords setup: What you'll need

To use Passwords as part of iCloud for Windows, you'll need to have an active Apple ID that was set up on an Apple device and have two-factor authentication (2FA) set up on your Apple account. You also have to have Windows Hello set up on your PC, whether you sign in with your face, your fingerprint or just a locally stored device PIN.

You'll also need an iOS device or a Mac running Big Sur or later. (We had only a 10-year-old Mac with High Sierra, so we were out of luck). As part of the setup process, Apple's 2FA will send a one-time code to your iPhone or iPad, which is secure. But the backup option is to send an SMS text message to your phone, which is the worst kind of 2FA. If only Apple would allow the use of authenticator apps.

After that, you should be all set. However, Apple's password manager is pretty limited in what it offers. Many stand-alone password managers (some of them are free) will still give you many more features, such as the ability to save other kinds of sensitive information and generate passwords.

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.