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The best password managers for PCs, Macs, and mobile devices

Tim Ferrill | June 19, 2014
6 local and cloud-based password managers make passwords stronger and online life easier for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone users

In my judgment, KeePass is the best of the options using local storage. The fact that it's open source, free, and complemented by countless plug-ins adds up to a very flexible option. With the right combination of plug-ins, KeePass can be made to do just about anything you could require of a password manager. My favorite cloud option is LastPass, primarily due to its low cost and the consistent implementation of features across all of the clients. Each LastPass client I tested was easy to work with, stable, and remarkably uniform from a usability perspective. Additionally, the fact that a LastPass Premium account is all of $1 per month makes it an extremely compelling option.

But one of these other options might suit you better. Really, you can't go wrong with any of these password managers.

Like KeePass, 1Password uses a local file to store encrypted passwords. AgileBits does not provide a cloud service for synchronization with mobile devices, but 1Password does support synchronization of the password vault using Dropbox (all platforms) or iCloud (Mac and iOS only). 1Password also supports synchronization over Wi-Fi between Windows, Mac, and iOS clients. Because the 1Password vault is contained in a single file, you gain the convenience of a portable password vault without having to store your passwords on the Internet.

1Password clients allow you to create and maintain multiple password vaults. Multiple vaults can be used to share some of your passwords with another family member or coworker. Secure sharing between 1Password clients is supported, giving you a method to transmit a login (or any sensitive information, such as a credit card number or the answer to a website's security question) to another licensed 1Password user over an encrypted channel. Emailing login information in plain text is also supported, but this information is only as secure as your email traffic.

The cost of using 1Password is markedly different than cloud-based password lockers. Users must purchase clients for each platform they intend to use, costing more up front than a subscription service, but potentially saving money in the long term. 1Password for PC and Mac cost $49.99, while the universal iOS version runs $17.99. The Android app is free with in-app purchases, providing read-only access to your password vault until you purchase the upgrade. AgileBits also provides bundled options for purchasing 1Password for PC and Mac or a five-user family license.

My biggest concern with 1Password has to do with feature parity between the Mac and PC versions. Currently both platforms offer similar features, largely due to a massive update to the Windows version just days before publication of this article. Previously, features such as secure sharing or Wi-Fi sync were nowhere to be found. AgileBits has made good on promises to bring these features to all platforms, but if you're primarily a PC user, the lag may be cause for concern. Regardless, 1Password is a strong password manager. With AgileBits' strong ties to the Apple community, this is particularly true for Mac and iOS users.

 

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