- What is a Password Manager?
- Are Password Managers Safe?
- Storing Passwords in the Cloud vs Locally
- Round 1: Features
- Round 2: Pricing
- Round 3: User Friendliness
- Round 4: Security
- Round 5: Support
- The Best Password Manager
- The Best Free Password Manager
- The Best Password Manager for SMBs
- Final Thoughts
Password managers are quickly becoming a necessary tool for browsing the internet. At Cloudwards.net, we take security and privacy seriously. We’re here today for one reason: to pick from our password manager reviews the best option to secure your online accounts.
The massive list ahead will give all the gritty details on why we like each password manager, but our favorite pick, overall, is Dashlane. Individual users will find it easy to use with great support, features and security, so make sure you check it out, if you don’t have time to read this guide.
While you should be fine with Dashlane, it isn’t the pick for everyone. We’ll compare other password managers over the course of five rounds (features, pricing, user friendliness, security and support) and rank our top three in each.
Before we do that, though, let’s answer what use a password manager has in your online life and just how secure the applications are.
What is a Password Manager?
A password manager is a surprisingly sophisticated application that performs a simple function. At its core, it encrypts and stores your passwords in a database, so you have a quick reference for every site you’re signed up for. It’s the classic sticky note method for logging your information, but with a far more secure structure (and less likely to take part in naturalization).
However, modern password managers do far more. They automatically log you in to websites and applications, as well as store information. The information changes from program to program, but the core tenets of a modern password manager include passwords, credit card information, contact information and notes.
The basic premise is that you enter your data into the password manager, then it encrypts it using 256-bit AES. Encryption models like this scramble the data, making it next to impossible for a hacker to reconstruct.
If you’ve gotten by remembering one or a few passwords that span all of your accounts, a password manager will go a long way in securing your digital information. Most include some sort of password generator that will spit out a random bundle of numbers, letters and symbols for use online.
You can generate a new, random and strong password for each of your online accounts (or you could use Cloudwards.net’s own password generator), and your password manager will deal with storing and fetching those passwords when you log back in.
As far as password managers go for this list, the process is carried out by a browser extension. The extension is connected to your password database and will fetch the login information for whatever URL you’re on. In most cases, a couple of clicks will get your username and password automatically filled in.
Many new users look at password managers as unneeded tools that serve only those who are most security conscious. While it’s true that password managers go a long way in securing your online accounts, they also make browsing the internet and using applications much simpler.
Are Password Managers Safe?
We’re not going to pretend that stuffing your online life into a single folder isn’t scary. We’ve weighted security as the most important factor of any password manager, as a single misstep with your data could spell disaster (check out our article on password fails for some terrifying examples).
Here’s the short answer: yes, password managers are safe and secure.
Leading AES-256 encryption is a thread among all password managers we’ve reviewed, a next-to-impenetrable fortress of security to protect your data. When backed up by two-factor authentication (2FA) and zero-knowledge of your master password, password managers are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to crack.
There’s always the possibility of a brute force attack, though. Many password managers send your encryption file through thousands of rounds of hashing, slowing the number of guesses a computer can drum up.
F-Secure Key (read our F-Secure Key review) even uses a small time-out window between each master password entry to protect from brute force attacks. Each unsuccessful entry will prompt a three second time-out. You shouldn’t notice it if your finger stumbles, but a computer spamming passwords will take three times as long to access your account. More time spent hacking means you’re less likely to be breached.
If anything, password managers are a more secure way to tackle online accounts. Generating and remembering strong, unique passwords for every account you have isn’t feasible and the likelihood of losing a physical record of these passwords is quite high.
Before venturing into our list of the best password managers, it’s important you know that they’re the best method of securing your online accounts.
Storing Passwords in the Cloud vs Storing Passwords Locally
The normal model of a password manager is to encrypt your data locally, then send it to the manager’s servers. Some password managers allow you to opt out of this offsite storage and store passwords locally or with a cloud storage service such as Dropbox (read our Dropbox review).
Like most things, there are pros and cons to choosing either. Cloud storage on the password manager’s servers is the default method and goes a long way in ease of use. Simply add your passwords, hit sync and you’re on your way.
That doesn’t come without drawbacks, though. You don’t always know where your passwords are going or how secure the facility is. While breaches are few and far between, LastPass was successfully attacked a few years ago.
Opting for local storage or the cloud storage provider of your choice will put those worries to rest. Password Depot, despite all its issues, allows you to store passwords locally or in Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive. You can read our Password Depot review for more of our thoughts on that service.
If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, we recommend checking out Bitwarden. That open source password manager puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to where your passwords are stored. You can host Bitwarden’s infrastructure on the platform of your choice.
There’s no clear answer as to which you should do. If ease of use is more your concern, then using the password manager’s storage is fine. However, for the more security-conscious, we’d recommend storing locally or with a trusted cloud storage provider. You can check out our cloud storage reviews for recommendations.
Round 1: Features
As broad a category as can be, features are the most important aspect of a password manager. Every one of the providers below can perform basic functions, so the features that each bring to the table separate the boys from the men. Our baseline set of features includes password auto-fill, mobile applications and support for multiple entry types.
For auto-fill, we’re looking for any other piece of data that the password manager can punch in for you. Form, credit card and application auto-fill are especially impressive features for a password manager and pushed any of our considerations to the top of the list.
Mobile applications are commonplace, so multi-device sync was also something we looked at. Phones function as mobile computers for many, so syncing your data across all your devices and having the same functionality as your desktop is a must.
Outside of the baseline set, auto-fill types and multi-device sync, we’re looking for anything that sets a password manager apart. For example, Dashlane’s universal password changer or Sticky Password’s USB export.
Ranking easily in first is Dashlane. This is our favorite password manager overall and that’s because of its feature set. Dashlane doesn’t have the most features out of the password managers we’ve tested, but it has the best.
Our favorite is the universal password changer. This Dashlane exclusive feature allows you to automatically generate new, strong passwords for your online accounts and change them with a single click. The list of supported websites isn’t massive, but it’s growing.
Some notable inclusions are Adobe, IMDb, Netflix and Yelp. You can read our Dashlane review for a longer list.
Dashlane satisfies our baseline with multi-device sync, mobile applications and auto-fill, but those features fall by the wayside. Between the universal password changer, real-time breach monitoring (as we’ll discuss in a later round) and multiple entry types, Dashlane takes an easy first place in this round.
1Password doesn’t have the unique features that make Dashlane great, knocking it down a ranking in this round. It satisfies our baseline conditions with honors, however, with the longest list of entry types we’ve seen from any password manager and a bit of cloud storage to boot.
Every entry you create in 1Password is a blank canvas. There’s support for an unlimited number of custom fields, notes and anything else you could want tied to an online account. We haven’t seen a more flexible password manager, which you can read about in our 1Password review.
Outside of the desktop application, 1Password has auto-fill on mobile devices. This often-overlooked feature is great to have. Without it, copying your passwords on your mobile device is an annoying and tedious process. It only works on iOS, though, so Android users are out of luck.
You have some amount of cloud storage with your account depending on your plan. It’s only a few gigabytes, but it’s used to store encrypted documents in your vault. While you’re not getting a ton of storage, it should be enough to get you by with text documents alone.
Keeper is similar to 1Password in terms of features. It has the same adaptable entry style with any number of custom fields and attachments, as well as a little encrypted document storage.
It’s a space below 1Password, however, because it doesn’t have as many entry types. While you can store the same things in either, Keeper doesn’t have the useful labels and icons that 1Password has for things such as licenses and certificates.
We like that Keeper allows you to add notes to any entry, though. You can type whatever you want in the entry field and it’ll save alongside your password. This is a useful area for remembering security questions, for example, as we detail in our tips to prevent identity theft.
Keeper comes with some encrypted document storage for Family plans and above. You have 10GB of shared space and the ability to purchase up to 1TB more. At $750 annually, though, it’s too pricey for us. With that high a rate, it’s better to use one of our best cloud storage providers.
Keeper has a few other features, and a low price tag, that make it worthy of consideration. You can learn more about it in our full Keeper review.
Round 2: Pricing
The cost of a password manager is important. Unlike data restoration software, a password manager will follow you for the foreseeable future, so shelling out too much money for a lackluster experience isn’t ideal.
The rate isn’t as important as the features that accommodate it, though. This section and the previous work hand-in-hand. We don’t mind recommending an expensive password manager, as long as it has the right feature list to back up the price tag.
Value is the main component of this section, not just price. We’re taking a look at the password manager as a whole and relating that to the cost. If two similar services have different prices, we’ll recommend the cheaper one.
We’re also looking at the lineup of plans. Our baseline for this section includes a free plan and personal plan, but team or family packages are welcome additions.
Take Kaspersky Password Manager, for example. It is among the cheapest password managers you can buy and satisfies our baseline set of plans. However, the free plan is very limited and doesn’t stack up well against LastPass, which has a more robust lineup and a better free offering.
LastPass has the best free plan we’ve seen from any password manager. It’s our go-to recommendation for those on a tight budget because of its full multi-device sync and attractive vault.
Premium offerings are cheap, as well. LastPass is the second least expensive password manager we’ve reviewed, falling just behind Kaspersky Password Manager. Between it’s free plan and business offerings, however, it still manages first place.
The family plan is the sweet spot for multi-user configurations. It comes with six Premium licenses for the cost of two, a big value, even if you won’t populate all the slots. Business plans can get expensive with a per-user rate, so we’d recommend a Family plan for small businesses.
Even with the cheap price tag of a single-user plan, it’s hard for us to recommend it over the free offering. The only thing you’re getting is priority support, which shouldn’t be an issue, considering how well designed LastPass is. You can learn more about it in our LastPass review.
Blur has one of the best free plans we’ve seen from a password manager. It’s on par with LastPass, but takes the second seat with a slightly more expensive premium plan and far more expensive business offering.
It has a unique email and credit card masking feature that would’ve ranked it in our first round had it satisfied our baseline conditions. Basically, Blur generates faux email addresses and credit card numbers for your use online and ties those back to your stored data.
Email masking is available on the free plan, while credit card and phone masking are reserved for Premium users. You can learn more about the masking feature in our Blur review.
You can purchase Blur for a measly 20 cents more than LastPass, but only if you pay for three years up front. On the annual end, Blur is $1 more per month, which is still cheap.
We recommend Blur for single users, but teams or families are better off using Dashlane or 1Password.
While we dogged on it when defining our criteria, we can’t avoid adding Kaspersky Password Manager to this section. It scrapes by our criteria with a free and paid plan, but we’re only interested in the paid one.
1-year plan $ 1.25 / month
$14.99 billed every year
At $14.99 per year, it might as well be free. Kaspersky has the cheapest password manager we’ve reviewed and a surprising amount of features, considering the cost.
It comes in third because of its lackluster free plan. It’s more of a trial, offering a 15-entry limit. We weren’t able to import a .csv exported with LastPass because it exceeded the limit.
Kaspersky Password Manager comes with a lot of features, but it has some questionable ties to the privacy-unfriendly Russian government. You can read more about that in our Kaspersky Password Manager review.
Round 3: User Friendliness
A password manager shouldn’t be seen or heard, operating as a fluid addition to the rest of your digital experience. In the utopian view of software, that would be the case and, like the rest, all password managers have their drawbacks.
Because of that, we want a password manager that’s simple to set up and use. Our baseline here consists of password import, vault organization and a practical browser extension. Auto-fill plays a part in user-friendliness, so if a password manager couldn’t perform that basic function, it was omitted from this section.
We are looking at how the auto-fill and password capture works within your browser, though. Finicky, or otherwise annoying, methods of filling forms and password fields disqualified any password manager from this round.
We’re also looking at any extras that make a service stand out from an ease of use perspective. This could be Dashlane’s universal password changer or Sticky Password’s excellent guided install, for example.
User-friendliness is far more than an attractive interface, though that’s something we’re taking into account for this round. Keeper, for example, has a modern and customizable UI that doesn’t quite stack up to LastPass in real-world use.
LastPass is online-only, which, for many password managers, is a con. That’s not the case with LastPass, though. The browser UI and extension provide an intuitive experience from organizing your vault to auto-fill.
Your vault is organized into a tile-like format with support for folders. Adding a new password is simple. All you have to do is mouse over the giant, red plus sign in the bottom right corner and fill in the entry.
LastPass has support for many entry types, but most are stored in the password window. This keeps the interface tidy and allows you to differentiate between passwords, credit cards and notes.
The browser extension is what really impresses us, though. LastPass manages to cram all the features of the vault into this icon without it becoming overwhelming. You can view the passwords for the site you’re on, generate a new one and add an item without opening the browser UI.
Much like LastPass, Dashlane’s combination of extension and interface create a fluid user experience. It was hard choosing which would take first, but we had to knock Dashlane down to second because you have to manually sync your devices.
Outside of that small issue, Dashlane is a joy to use. When you install the desktop application, Dashlane will automatically pull in passwords from your browsers and store them in your vault. It’ll delete the unsecured remnants, as well, should you allow it to.
Unlike LastPass, Dashlane is mostly a desktop experience. There’s a browser UI available, but the bulk of functionality comes with the installed application. There, you can add new items and categories to organize your data.
As a bit of crosstalk between this round and our first one, we also like the universal password changer from the standpoint of user friendliness. Redoing all your passwords is like getting your life in order: difficult. The batch functionality eases this process a lot and is a major win for usability.
1Password takes third in this round because of its excellent desktop client. It satisfies our baseline, as well, with a browser extension that handles auto-fill with ease, multiple password import options and vault organization via tagging.
Normally a difficult process, 1Password makes adding a new entry simple. It’s a similar process to adding a new contact on iOS devices. You can have as many, or as few, pieces of data tied to a single account as you want, and there’s flexibility to rename each.
1Password manages that without making the interface complex. Clicking near the bottom of a section will add a new field and clicking on the red minus symbol will delete one. You can also change the symbol and link existing items to any of your entries.
Vault organization is handled with tags. As you add new entries, you can set a tag that will pull together groups of your passwords. It’s not as clean an answer as folder organization, but it gets the job done.
Round 4: Security
Security is a foremost concern when a password manager is in question. You rely of this piece of software to serve as a gatekeeper for your entire life. Password managers have the ability to store every detail about you, so one misfire could be hazardous.
Because of that, our baseline list of features is far more strict than in previous rounds. Every password manager needs to use AES-256 encryption, have two-factor authentication options and zero-knowledge of your master password.
That makes choosing password managers for this round difficult. Our list is polarizing. Either a password manager satisfies it or it does not. In order to separate the cream of the crop, we’re looking at how serious a password manager takes your security outside of these baseline factors.
Things such as support for the best 2FA apps with YubiKey or local WiFi sync, as offered by Sticky Password, are the small differentiating factors that separate our inclusions from the rest of the market.
This round isn’t even close. Dashlane is easily our first pick for security. It’s state-of-the-art system required its own U.S. patent and is next to impossible to breach without knowledge of your master password.
All your information is encrypted with AES-256 and locked behind your master password that Dashlane has zero-knowledge of. Standard 2FA methods such as your phone and email address are enabled by default, but you can use hardware keys like YubiKey on a Premium plan.
These three security measures are commonplace, but it’s Dashlane’s unique security structure that makes it stand out. MIT’s study of the security system found that “…the security of AES ensures that it is infeasible to obtain a user’s sensitive information without knowledge of their master password.”
Dashlane has one of the more honest security dashboards we’ve seen, as well. You can see an overall score for your passwords, as well as any reused or outdated ones. If a site you have an account with is breached, Dashlane will notify you to change your password.
For an ultra-tight fit in security, we have a hard time recommending anything other than Dashlane. Other services may nip at its heels, but, for the time being, there’s not another password manager that will keep your data as secure as Dashlane will.
Blur hits our criteria with 2FA options, AES-256 and zero-knowledge of your master password. It takes a backseat to Dashlane with a more limited array of authentication methods, but still manages a spot with its unique masking feature.
Premium subscribers are able to mask emails, credit cards and phone numbers. Blur will generate random entries for each of these and tie them back to the information stored in your vault. There’s no limit on the number of masked accounts you can have, either, so multiple email addresses shouldn’t be an issue.
Additionally, all plans have access to the Tracker Blocker. Blur will automatically block any sites tracking your information, one of the more potent threats to online privacy. You can view all the websites it’s blocked in your dashboard, which is an eye-opening experience, if you’ve never tried. In our few days of testing, Blur blocked over 500 sites.
Tracker Blocker and masking places Blur in this round, but security isn’t perfect across the board. 2FA can only be handled by an external app such as Google Authenticator, and there’s no security dashboard like Dashlane.
Sticky Password takes third with enough unique features to stand out from the lot. It’s still using AES-256 with 2FA via Google Authenticator. You’ll use a master password that Sticky Password has zero-knowledge of, but it’s not the only way to unlock your account.
You’re limited to Google Authenticator as your second factor, but your first factor can change. Sticky Password allows you to use a USB drive or Bluetooth device to unlock your account instead. You can also turn off authentication, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
Our favorite security feature is offline-sync. Sticky Password allows you to sync your devices over local WiFi instead of sending it to the servers. That cuts down the possibility of interception, even though, frankly, someone intercepting your data couldn’t do much with it.
You have control over what’s stored on Sticky Password’s servers, putting you in the driver’s seat when it comes to security. The restriction in 2FA holds Sticky Password back, but offline sync and authentication options manage a third place slot for this round. Read our Sticky Password review to learn more.
Round 5: Support
Support isn’t strong for most password managers. We had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to fetch the few we’ll discuss. Even so, it’s a necessary part of any piece of software and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly when moving to checkout.
Our baseline for this round consists of two parts. A password manager needs to have some sort of help center or knowledgebase and, at least, one form of contact in order for us to include it here.
Multiple forms of contact helps a lot, though. Our baseline isn’t the ideal scenario, like it was in the previous section, but the bare minimum. Email support is expected, but live chat or phone support is what we prefer.
In addition to a help center or knowledgebase, we also like to see a forum. Preferably, this is an area that users and support staff scour. We’ve seen many forums with users throwing around hearsay and no clear answers to questions.
This round is last, however, and for good reason. Password managers shouldn’t present you with many problems, so support is less needed than with something such as web hosting. As long as contact is available, and there’s a solid knowledgebase, you should be fine.
Dashlane is the exception to the rule when it comes to bad password manager support. You have email and live chat, along with a robust list of topics in the help center. It’s all easy to use, too, which is a plus for those frustrating hurdles that call for support.
You have English-language live chat between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, but email support should be fine for most. When we reached out, Dashlane responded in just under four hours, which is quick for any support staff.
There’s no guaranteed window, though, so your response time may vary. Our four-hour response came with a free account, and Dashlane says its Premium users have priority in the support queue. We weren’t able to test how much faster Premium subscribers receive support, though.
Our next entry, Blur, has impressive support, as well, but Dashlane pushes ahead with its help center. It’s an organized amalgamation of answers and, while direct support suffices, you should be able to find an answer here, too.
Blur is one of a small list of password managers that we think offer good support. There are multiple forms of contact and a guaranteed response window, as well as a FAQ section for common problems.
The standout here is direct support. Blur has email and live chat around the clock. Free users will receive an email response within three business days and Premium users will receive it within one. When writing our Blur review, our test email was responded to in a little over 48 hours on a free account.
Live chat works for most problems, and it’s the form of contact we’d recommend in most situations. It’s available 24/7 and you can email yourself a copy of the transcript once you’re done, in case you need a reference.
The DIY approach to support isn’t the best with Blur, but we’d take direct contact over that any day. There are plenty of topics in the FAQ and the article quality suffices, but the organization could use some work.
Still, it gets the job done. We wanted to see a community forum as well, but the trade-off of forum for live chat is worth it to us.
Sticky Password doesn’t have the robust direct support of Dashlane and Blur, but has guaranteed response windows. Free and Premium users can use email support, with Premium subscribers receiving a response in 24 hours or less on weekdays.
Free users don’t have a guaranteed window, but we had an email pop up in our inbox the next day after sending a question with a free account.
DIY support is impressive here. Sticky Password has a help center and community forum, both of which are updated frequently. The help center has general articles on setting up and using the application, as well as sections for operating-system-specific questions.
Forums are organized into a few broad topics, instead of being littered with threads, making navigation simple. Each time we’ve checked on the forums, there’s been a response that’s only a few hours old, a good indication that the community is alive and well.
The Best Password Manager
Out of our five rounds, only one password manager made it into four. Dashlane ranks as our best password manager across the board, falling just shy of a spot in our pricing round. It satisfies and improves on our baseline for each category, including pricing, making it our first pick overall.
The only reason it didn’t make it into our pricing section is because it’s on the expensive side. While we’re talking less than a Washington’s worth of difference, Dashlane is still more expensive than other competing providers.
It’s more expensive for good reason, though. Between state-of-the-art security, excellent support and a laundry list of features, it’s difficult to pass up Dashlane when shopping around for a password manager.
We recommend signing up for a free account to try it yourself and see if you like it as much as we do. If the price is too much and you’d rather stick to a free offering, LastPass has our favorite free plan.
The Best Free Password Manager
Most of the password managers we’re going to recommend have some sort of free plan available. It brings up an interesting question of whether you should drum up a few bucks a month or just get by for free.
Unfortunately, the answer is the ever-ambiguous “it depends.” LastPass, for example, has an excellent free plan that we’d recommend over some of the more mediocre paid options. On the other hand, Dashlane is slightly more expensive than the competition, but comes with a robust feature set to back it up.
Regardless, we recommend trying out a free plan with any of our best password managers and upgrading afterwards. You’ll get extra features, usually in the form of priority support and advanced security options, but it’s more about supporting the companies behind these products.
As we continue to move toward a digital world, online security and privacy are the foremost concerns and password managers protect them in a practical way. Upgrading to a paid plan has its perks, but, for us, it’s just as important to upgrade so these companies can continue to keep your data safe online.
The Best Password Manager for Small Business
One pitfall of our criteria is that it doesn’t differentiate between password managers for a single user and multiple users. Even for this purpose, we have to crown Dashlane. It’s our pick for the best password manager for small business.
The $4 per user per month rate is on par with other providers, but no other password manager provides the features for business that Dashlane does. You have all of the benefits of Dashlane Premium, along with secure password sharing between groups and SmartSpaces, a feature that allows you to store personal and business data in the same account without overlap.
As Dashlane ranks highly in user-friendliness, your employees should have little trouble adapting to the system. It solves the headache of changing passwords company-wide and having to answer the dreaded “I forgot my password.”
Teams of 50+ will even have a dedicated customer support representative that can help with any issues. While 50+ is out of scope for many small businesses, the option is there for companies rapidly expanding.
A password manager is simply good practice in the online climate of the modern era. It keeps you secure, while freeing headspace from which password goes to which account. These programs have evolved enough that you can even store other personal data inside.
Between our five rounds, it’s clear that Dashlane is the pick for the best password manager, but you’ll find great choices in Abine Blur and Sticky Password, as well. LastPass and 1Password are strong choices, but we’d recommend sticking to a free plan with those providers.
We like Kaspersky Password Manager and Keeper, too, but we’d put them into a tier-two status when compared to the top dogs.
A password manager is a single step in securing yourself online, however. Use of one of these programs in conjunction with a VPN and secure cloud storage. Check out some of our best VPN and best cloud storage guides for more on these topics.
Which password manager is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.