If you use a password manager, you won't need to remember a unique, long, complex password for every online account. Instead, the password manager will remember each password for you, strengthening your security and minimizing your risk the next time there's a massive data breach. The only password you'll need to remember is the single "master" password to the password manager itself.
Based on our extensive testing of seven services — in which we focused on user experience, platform support, security and overall performance — the best overall password managers are Dashlane and LastPass, which offer the ideal combinations of ease of use, convenience and security.
Dashlane has a well-designed desktop application and a tool that changes your passwords on hundreds of websites simultaneously, and recently added a fully interactive website interface and support for Linux and Chrome OS. LastPass has the price advantage; its free version is unlimited and versatile, and its paid versions are inexpensive and full-featured.
We also liked Keeper's strong security and Enpass' flexibility, although each lacked certain conveniences.
Two other password managers are best suited for niche segments: 1Password for Mac and iOS users, and Zoho Vault for couples and small families who want to share passwords. The seventh password manager, RoboForm, is the oldest on the list, and while it does a competent job, it needs an overhaul before we can recommend it over any other product.
What to Look for in a Password Manager
All seven password managers we 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, macOS, Android and iOS. All have free options, but none of them are entirely free.
All can be installed on an unlimited number of devices for a single (usually paid) account, store an unlimited number of passwords and generate new, strong passwords for you (though not always on the mobile version). Some 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. (You don't have to do this, but it's safer than letting the retail website save your credit-card information.) Finally, none can recover your master password for you if you forget it, although some let you reset that password to something else.
Best Overall: Dashlane
Dashlane has removed almost every reservation that we had when we last reviewed it. It has added support for Linux, Chrome OS and the Microsoft Edge browser and has made its website interface truly interactive, matching LastPass in platform support and, with its excellent desktop software, surpassing its chief rival in interface flexibility.
Dashlane's killer feature is its bulk password changer, which can reset hundreds of your passwords at once, saving you time and worry in the event of a major data breach. There's also a scanner that goes through your email inbox on iOS or Android to find online accounts you may have forgotten about. The password manager is well designed, easy to use and possibly the best at filling out your personal information in online forms. Dashlane's only drawback is the relatively high price of $40 per year for the paid version.
Best Value: LastPass
LastPass shares our Editor's Choice award with Dashlane because of its ease of use, support for all major platforms, wide range of features, variety of configurations and affordable ($24 per year) subscription. The free version of LastPass syncs across an unlimited number of devices and has almost as many features as the paid version. You don't need to install an application on your computer to use LastPass; instead, the software lives entirely in browser extensions and in a full-featured web interface.
Best Security: Keeper
Keeper ($25.49 per year for the premium service) is fast and full-featured, has a robust web interface, stores files and documents of any kind, and offers perhaps the best security of any password manager. The trade-off for that enhanced security is a bit of inconvenience: Keeper chooses not to have a bulk password changer, and it won't let you create a PIN to quickly access the mobile app. If your phone can't read your fingerprint or your face, you'll have to enter the full master password every time.
Good Value: Enpass
Enpass is entirely free on the desktop and costs a one-time flat fee of $9.99 for Android, BlackBerry, iOS or Windows Phone. It handles all the basics quite well, but you'll have to sync your own devices via Dropbox or a similar service. The service doesn't offer any cloud-syncing of its own. (Some users might see that as a security advantage.)
The Enpass desktop interface is a bit spare, but functional; the mobile apps are sleek and handle biometric logins. Enpass says a local-sync feature is in the works, which would make the service ideal for users who are wary of putting their data online. Until then, though, Enpass isn't any better than the free version of LastPass or even Zoho Vault.
1Password's Windows and Android versions have finally reached rough parity with their Mac and iOS equivalents, but many functions feel clunkier than they are on newer password managers. 1Password now asks new users to sign up for a $36 yearly cloud subscription, although for $65, Mac users can buy the older stand-alone application that lets them sync devices locally.
Only cloud subscribers can use 1Password's killer feature, a Travel Mode that deletes sensitive data from your devices (you'll get it back later) so that snooping border-control agents can't find it. 1Password also has great form-filling abilities, though it lacks true two-factor authentication.
Zoho Vault is part of a larger suite of paid enterprise tools, and the company makes the password manager free for individual personal use. (Group plans that can be used by families start at $12 per user per year.) You won't get consumer-friendly features such as personal-data form filling or a bulk password changer, but all of the essentials are in place and work smoothly.
Unlke EnPass, Zoho Vault will do the syncing for you using its own servers, and there's no fee to sync across all your desktop, laptop and mobile devices. The only drawbacks are that Zoho Vault sometimes trips over Google logins (there's a somewhat technical workaround) and that LastPass does even more for free as well.
RoboForm has been around since 1999 and, unfortunately, shows its age. At $20 per year, its premium version isn't expensive, and the service has excellent form filling and runs on a wide variety of platforms and browsers. But its website interface is still read-only, its desktop software can be confusing (the mobile apps are a little more user-friendly) and its functionality is limited. RoboForm needs an overhaul to compete with even the free version of LastPass.
How We Test Password Managers
We installed and used all seven password managers on a dual-boot Apple laptop running Windows 10 and macOS 10.12 Sierra, an iPad Pro 12.9, a Samsung Galaxy S8+ and a Google Pixel. The primary browser we used was Google Chrome on all platforms, but we also used Apple Safari on macOS and iOS.
We considered each service's ease of use, user interface, variety and usefulness of features, and security practices, especially concerning two-factor authentication. Price was considered only when two or more password managers were otherwise roughly equal.
Cloud vs. Local Management
1Password gives you an option to store and sync your "vault" of passwords and other sensitive information locally (in other words, only on your own devices) without using the service's cloud servers. There's a security advantage to that because none of the data will ever need to reach the internet, but it can be a hassle to synchronize all of your devices. (Enpass plans to add a similar local-sync feature, but for now, you'll have to sync your devices using third-party file-sharing services such as Dropbox or iCloud.)
Far more convenient are cloud-based password managers, which include LastPass, Dashlane, Keeper and Zoho Vault. (1Password's default mode is also cloud-based.) These services keep encrypted copies of your vault on their own servers, ensure all your devices are always synced and encrypt the transmissions between your devices and their servers.
The risk, though small, is that one of the cloud-based services could be compromised, and your passwords could be released out into the wild. (LastPass has had a number of documented security issues, all of which have been quickly fixed, and has not lost any passwords.) And whether it's local or cloud-synced, a password manager puts all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. But for most people, the demonstrable security benefits of using a password manager far outweigh the disadvantages.