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Ditch the sticky notes and get peace of mind. One of our favorite password managers can be your first defense against getting hacked.

Keeper

Keeper

  • Offers limited free version (unlimited passwords on one device)
  • Base price beyond free: $35
  • Works with: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iPhone and iPad. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Edge and Opera. 

Keeper is another secure password manager that helps you manage login info on Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS devices. A free version gives you unlimited password storage on one device. The step-up version costs $35 a year and lets you sync passwords across multiple device options. For around $45 a year, you can get 10GB of secure file storage.

See at Keeper

KeePassXC

KeePass
  • It's free
  • Donations accepted
  • Works with: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, iPhone and iPad, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Palm OS. Access via the web plus popular browser extensions. (Except for the official Windows version, KeePass for other platforms are unofficial ports.)

KeePass, another open-source software password manager, started on Windows and has been ported using the same code base to other platforms, including MacOS, Android and iOS. On the plus side, it's totally free and endorsed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. On the other hand, it's really for advanced users only: Its user interface takes a bit of fiddling to get all the independently built versions of KeePass to work together.

See at KeePass

What about NordPass and Norton Password Manager?

There's been a shift in the market for VPN and antivirus software in recent months. Many of the companies behind these software packages are expanding them to become wider software suites. For instance: NordVPN now offers NordPass, a dedicated password manager, and Norton now offers a Norton Password Manager as part of its antivirus and identity theft packages. We haven't specifically reviewed these, if only because they don't yet appear to have a feature set or pricing option that beats any of our preferred options above. If and when that changes, we'll check them out in more detail. 

See At NordPassSee at Norton

Password manager basics

Still need more info on what password managers are, and why they're better than the alternatives? Read on.

How does a password manager work? 

To get started, a password manager will record the username and password you use when you first sign in to a website or service. Then the next time you visit the website, it will autofill forms with your saved password login information. For those websites and services that don't allow automatic filling, a password manager lets you copy the password to paste into the password field.

If you're stuck picking a good password, a manager can generate a strong password for you and watch that you aren't reusing it across multiple services. And if you use more than one device, you want a manager that is available across all your devices and browsers, so you can access your passwords and login information -- including credit-card and shipping information -- from anywhere through the manager app or its browser extension. Some provide secure storage so you can store other items too, such as documents or an electronic copy of your passport or will.

Take note: Many password managers keep the master password you use to unlock the manager locally and not on a remote server. Or if it's on a server, it's encrypted and not readable by the company.

This ensures your account stays secure in case of a data breach. It also means that if you forget your master password, there may not be a way to recover your account through the company. Because of that, a few password managers offer DIY kits to help you recover your account on your own. Worst-case scenario, you start over with a new password manager account and then reset and save passwords for all your accounts and apps.

Read more: This is how we might finally replace passwords

What makes for a secure password?

When trying to avoid a weak password, a good password should be a long string of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation and other nonalphanumeric characters -- something that's difficult for others to guess, but a snap for a password manager to keep track of. And despite what you may have heard, once you select a good password or passphrase, you don't really need to change it periodically.

Can I use a web browser to manage my passwords and login information? 

You can certainly use Chrome, Safari or Firefox to manage your passwords, addresses and other login data. You can even set up a master password to unlock your credentials within a browser. And while using an online browser's password tool is certainly better than not using a password keeper at all, you can't easily access your passwords and other login info outside of the browser or share login info with others you trust. 

What about iCloud Keychain? 

Through iCloud Keychain, you can access your Safari website usernames and passwords, credit card information and Wi-Fi network information from your Mac and iOS devices. It's great if you live in Apple's world. But if you venture outside and have a Windows or Android device or use the Google Chrome or Firefox browser, iCloud Keychain comes up short.

David Gewirtz contributed to this story. 

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