February 25, 2021
LastPass review: Still the leading password manager, despite security history

These are the best free password managers


lastpass-free-desktop-phone-watch

The free version of LastPass is as capable as the paid version of many other password managers — but you may want to check out Bitwarden as well.


LastPass

I won’t shut up about password managers. They’re among the most helpful (and important) tools a person can use, yet I know far too many people who just keep writing down, forgetting and resetting the same few easily hacked credentials.

If that’s you, it’s time to get with the program — or in this case the app. Concerned about cost? Don’t be: Many great password managers have very capable free versions. But there are two I think stand above most others (including those in our roundup of the best password managers), because they have one key capability most others charge for. The first is called LastPass; the second, Bitwarden.

What is a password manager, really?

Simple: It’s an encrypted database of all your passwords. Instead of trying to remember that same handful of (probably not very secure) passwords you use everywhere you go online, you just have to remember one: The one that unlocks Bitwarden or LastPass. 

Why choose one of these over the likes of 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, Password Vault, Sticky Password and other products, all of which are perfectly good? Because only the free versions of Bitwarden and LastPass support password synchronization. That means you can access your data on your phone, tablet and PC — a benefit that’s absolutely essential if you use more than one device.

Beyond that, they offer common helpers like strong-password generation, automatic form-filling, encrypted credit card storage (for easier online shopping), a digital vault and so on. The free version of LastPass also allows one-to-one password sharing — helpful if you want to give your spouse or partner emergency access to your database.

Read more: The best password managers and how to use them

Useful features like those help explain why I prefer a proper password manager to the rudimentary capabilities built into Android, iOS and your web browser. Indeed, once you get accustomed to having those tools at your disposal, you’ll wonder how you managed so long without them.

Make no mistake, there’s a learning curve to Bitwarden and LastPass (though I consider the former to be the easier of the two). It might take you a few weeks to really get accustomed to using the app and banishing your old password habits.

But any such hassles are greatly overshadowed by the overall convenience. Your goal as an internet citizen should be to use a different, robust password for each app, site and service, and a password manager is the only practical way to make that happen. You should be using one. Bitwarden and LastPass are, to my thinking, the best free options out there.  

Other free password management options

Should you bother with the premium version of either program? Bitwarden charges just $10 annually for it, a price that nets you 1GB of encrypted cloud storage and password health reports. There’s also a family option ($40 a year) that gives you premium features for up to six users and adds unlimited sharing.  

LastPass Premium costs $36 a year and also includes 1GB of storage, one-to-many password sharing and priority tech support. I’d say many of these features are superfluous for most users, though obviously it’s up to you to decide.

For the record, LogMeOnce is another robust password manager that also supports password-syncing in its free version. I don’t like it as much, but it’s worth a look.

If you’re wondering, I’m now using Bitwarden full-time. Previously I was a Dashlane user, but grew frustrated by its bloat and high price. Bitwarden has proven a solid product, one I have no qualms about recommending.

What’s your preferred password-management method these days? And if you refuse to use one of these tools, I’d like to know why! 😜


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