Password managers are an essential tool for the internet. They make signing in to accounts, getting through checkouts and remembering bank account information much easier while increasing your security. While there are no shortage of paid options, getting a decent free password manager can be a challenge.
In this guide to the best free password manager, we’re going to list our top five picks for password managers that won’t cost you a dime. We’ll give you reasons to use a password manager, set out our criteria and explain our choices.
We’ll spoil it now and let you know that LastPass is our best free password manager. It comes with features, such as multi-device sync and unlimited entries, that many other password managers hide behind a paywall.
What Is a Password Manager?
A password manager is simple. It stores your passwords in an encrypted vault, so you can access them quickly, no matter what device you’re using. Basically, it’s the virtual way to write your password on a sticky note, but far more secure.
Password managers can do more than just store your login information, though. Many of the best password managers can store credit cards, billing addresses, social security information and more.
Whenever you land on a website requiring that information, the password manager will look in your vault and automatically fill in what you need. It’s a huge time saver when logging in to websites and checking out at online stores.
Why You Need a Password Manager
For ease of use, a password manager is a no-brainer. It makes using the internet on your desktop and mobiles devices easier than ever. That said, the most important benefit of a password manager is the security it adds to your online accounts.
As you can read in our guide to cybercrime, there’s no shortage of people looking to scam you online. Your personal information, protected by a password, is constantly at risk. Yahoo, for instance, was breached at the cost of 3 billion user accounts.
A weak password, even one that’s encrypted with top-level AES 256-bit, can be decrypted in a matter of seconds with a dictionary attack. Password managers allow you to create a strong, unique password for each of your online accounts, lowering the chances that they will be cracked exponentially.
We have a full guide to creating a strong password, as well as a random password generator, if you need one. To stay safe you need to create wildly random passwords that can’t be cracked by a dictionary attack.
A password manager makes using the internet easier, as well as more secure. It’s impossible to remember a password such as our example, especially when you’re using a different one for each of your accounts. A password manager handles that for you, making your online existence safer.
Best Free Password Manager 2018
What Makes a Free Password Manager the Best
There aren’t many free password managers, or, at least, not many good ones. There’s usually some significant drawback that forces you into an upgrade. For this list, we tried to find password managers that gave you a full, or mostly full, experience for free.
The first concern is security and trust. You’re storing all your personal data in a password manager, so you need to know it can’t access your data and breaches won’t compromise your account. It’s a marvel that more scam artists online haven’t put up phony password managers to steal identities.
Security has two factors: encryption and knowledge of data. We looked for providers that use a zero-knowledge model with your master password, meaning it’s never seen or stored on the server. We also wanted top-level AES 256-bit encryption with 100,000 or more rounds of hashing.
Outside of security, most other areas were considered “nice to have.” There are a few key features that make password managers rank higher, including multi-device sync and unlimited password storage.
Additional features, such as sharing capabilities, browser import and a security dashboard are welcome, too. Those aren’t as important, though, as they don’t significantly affect the core functions of the password manager.
Ease of use is important, though. We looked for password managers that capture login data as you use the internet and store it logically in your vault. This goes hand-in-hand with operating system support. Password managers that can function solely as browser extensions get extra points.
While this list is focused on free password managers, we’ll took a look at the upgrade options. The drawbacks of a free plan, no matter how minor, are unavoidable, so a logical and inexpensive upgrade path is important.
The Best Free Password Manager: LastPass
LastPass is easily our first choice for the best free password manager. It comes with the core functions of a password manager, including multi-device sync and an unlimited number of entries.
It’s browser-based, meaning you can access it on any machine that runs Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. All your management is done in the web interface, and you can access your vault on any device, as long as you have the browser extension installed.
That makes it simple to use LastPass across your devices. There are mobiles apps for iOS and Android, and LastPass automatically syncs your data between devices. With the release of iOS 12, you can use LastPass for auto-fill on Apple devices. In fact, it made our list of the best password managers for iOS.
Security is top-notch, too. LastPass uses AES 256-bit to encrypt your vault. Encryption and decryption happens locally, meaning the service can’t see the information in your account. Your master password and decryption key are never sent to its servers. Only a password hash is sent, which is used to verify your account.
LastPass was the victim of a data breach in 2015. Thanks to its superior security measures, though, no master passwords or vault information was taken.
The best plan is the free one, but it’s missing a few features. Most notably, auto-fill isn’t supported on applications and you can’t share items with more than one user. Even so, the lack of restriction of password entries and devices makes the free plan shine.
LastPass offers impressive family and business plans, too. Families, for example, includes six Premium licenses for the price of two. You can learn more about the other plans in our LastPass review or sign up for a free account.
- Multi-device sync
- Unlimited entries
- Excellent security
- Limited sharing capabilities
Sticky Password is an easy-to-use, inexpensive password manager with a generous free plan. You get full access to the service on a single device, which means you can’t sync with other ones. Even so, as a simple solution for desktops, it’s an excellent option.
It has one of the densest interfaces among password managers, but doesn’t sacrifice usability for it. If you’re using a paid plan, you can use the default sync method through the cloud. It also allows you to sync using your local connection or disable sync altogether. If you’re concerned about security, those are nice options to have.
You can export your data to a USB device, too, if you’d rather sync manually. The device is encrypted using AES 256-bit and readable in any instance of Sticky Password. You need your master password to decrypt the data, so it’s not at risk of falling into the wrong hands.
Sticky Password prompts users to import browser passwords during install. It can import from Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. The only other password manager we’ve encountered that does that is Dashlane, and browser import during installation goes a long way toward getting set up.
Sticky Password uses AES 256-bit encryption and has no knowledge of your master password. Like LastPass, encryption and decryption happens at the device level, meaning it never sees your information.
It handles two-factor authentication strangely, though. You can only use Google Authenticator as your second factor which is, thankfully, one of our picks for the best 2FA apps. Your first factor doesn’t have to be your master password.
You can use a USB or Bluetooth device instead.
If you pay for Sticky Password, you’ll also be helping the Save the Manatee Club. Sticky Password donates a portion of your subscription toward saving the endangered species. The manatee is the symbol of Sticky Password and parent company Lamantine Software, so it only makes sense.
Upgrading is inexpensive, too. You can pay $29.99 per year or buy Sticky Password outright for $149.99. You can learn more about upgrading and the other features it offers in our Sticky Password review or sign up for a free account.
- Customizable interface
- Unlimited entries
- USB export
- No multi-device sync
RoboForm Everywhere, the paid version of the software, is excellent. The free plan is decent, too, but it’s missing a few features. Even so, as a way to store as many passwords as you want on a single device, you can’t go wrong with RoboForm.
Though it lacks multi-device sync, RoboForm Free has a lot of features. You can store as many logins, credit cards and identities in your account as you want. It supports auto-fill for all of those areas, too, including in desktop applications.
You can also share entries with other users, as many times as you’d like. RoboForm includes emergency access, so someone close can get to your data in the event of death or incapacitation. Emergency access can be used as a means of account recovery, as well.
As with the other options on this list, there isn’t account recovery outside of emergency access, though. RoboForm never sees or stores your master password, so it can’t reset it even if you need it to. That’s one of the risks of using a password manager, but it provides a lot in the way of security.
You’re missing a few things in the free plan, most notably multi-device sync and cloud backup. Free plans can’t use 2FA, either, which is a big concern. To get those, as well as 24/7 support and web access, you need to upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere.
Thankfully, it’s cheap to do so. Everywhere is under $25 annually and you can purchase up to five years upfront. You can learn more about the upgrade in our RoboForm review or download the application to try it yourself.
- Unlimited entries
- Application auto-fill
- Easy to use
- No multi-device sync
Dashlane is our first pick for paid password managers, not only for its excellent security and ease of use, but also for its many features. It’s costly to upgrade, at least by password manager standards, but extras, such as dark web monitoring and a single point virtual private network, justify the cost.
The free plan is decent, but not on LastPass’s level. You’re limited to 50 entries on a single device. You can install the Dashlane application on as many devices as you like, but you won’t be able to sync data between them.
It has its perks, though. Dashlane’s universal password changer is one of the best features we’ve seen on a password manager and free users get it. It automatically changes your password on supported websites, making an important, but frequently ignored, security practice much easier.
The password changer works well with breach notifications, too. Dashlane notifies you if an account has been compromised and prompts you to change your password immediately. If the account is for one of the supported websites, you can update your password without doing so manually.
You can change passwords from the security dashboard. The area shows your overall password health, along with accounts that are using weak or redundant passwords. Dashlane shows you a percentage score for how secure your passwords are for each of your accounts.
The free plan is decent. If it wasn’t for the password changer and excellent user experience, though, it’d be difficult to recommend with only 50 entries and no multi-device sync. That said, it’s a good plan to get you familiar with Dashlane and see why an upgrade is worth it.
You get a single point VPN, cloud backup, multi-device sync, dark web monitoring and more for only a few dollars per month. If you upgrade to the more expensive Premium Plus plan, you get identity theft insurance, too. You can learn more about those options in our Dashlane review or try Premium with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Easy to use
- Breach notifications
- Password changer
- Limited to 50 entries
- No multi-device sync
Zoho Vault is a business-focused password manager that has a generous free plan for personal use. As such, the features for paid plans focus on teams, such as single sign-on integrations and alerts for password events. The personal plan can store an unlimited number of passwords and sync them across your devices, though.
You can access Vault through your desktop or mobile device. Apps are available for iOS and Android, and there are browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. The password manager is browser-based, meaning you can access it anywhere, even without the extension installed.
Vault handles the creation of logins differently. It calls them “secrets” and you can pick from a list of supported websites to add your login information. You can create custom secrets, too, with multiple options such as display icon, tags and custom fields.
Entries also support file attachment up to 1MB in size, and can be classified for business or personal use.
There are issues with Vault that keep us from recommending it directly after LastPass, though. It can store information such as your identity and credit card, but it can’t automatically fill it in your browser. You can create custom secret types with as many fields as you like, but you have to open your vault to view the data.
It isn’t the easiest to use, either. There’s an admin area leftover from business versions of Vault that can be confusing for an single user. Features such as user management are irrelevant for an individual and they can cause hurdles in the user interface.
Even so, with unlimited password storage and multi-device sync for free, Vault is an excellent choice. You can sign up for a free account and get a trial of one of Zoho’s business plans, though it’s unlikely you’ll use the extra features.
- Multi-device sync
- Unlimited entries
- Custom fields
- Difficult to use
Even though you’re giving up features, there are decent options for free password managers. The options are limited, though, so it may be a better idea to bite the bullet and put up the $3 per month or so that password managers charge.
Which free password manager are you signing up for? Let us know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading.