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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

KeePass was designed to store a local copy of the password vault. Cloud backup and support for synchronization across multiple devices are obtained through plug-ins that work with the likes of Dropbox, Google Docs, and Microsoft OneDrive. A side benefit of a local password database such as KeyPass is the ability for multiple users to share a database or for one user to keep multiple databases, sharing some and keeping others private.

With KeePass, you can lock your password vault using a combination of password, key file, and Windows authentication.

Mobile support for KeePass is a little more obtuse than some of the commercial options. Ports are available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, but the big question becomes synchronization support. Not all mobile ports support cloud synchronization, and those that do support only a subset of the cloud options. Some mobile KeePass clients carry a cost, though most are in the $1 to $2 range.

If you're more concerned about the security of your password vault than mobile clients and device synchronization, you'll be pleased to know that KeePass supports multiple authentication methods by default. KeePass database files can be locked by a combination of password, key file, and Windows user account. With a key file stored on removable media such as a USB thumb drive, two-factor authentication can be used to secure access to your critical passwords.

The biggest downside to KeePass is complexity. Getting all of the advanced functionality offered by the competition will require quite a bit of research, setup, and maintenance. While KeePass is a great solution for fans of open source, maximum flexibility, and free software, it is certainly not as straightforward as some of the cloud-based services listed here.

LastPass

LastPass may be the most popular password manager in this review, due to a rich set of features, support for a wide range of mobile platforms, and straightforward licensing, not to mention aggressive marketing. Unlike KeePass, LastPass is decidedly cloud-centric, using its own cloud service to store user information and synchronize data.

LastPass offers a free and premium pricing tier for consumers, with the premium service costing just $1 per month. Users of the free edition get many of the basics you'd expect from a cloud-based service, including plug-in support for multiple browsers, anywhere access, and even support for multifactor authentication using Google Authenticator on an Android or iOS device or Microsoft Authenticator on Windows Phone. Mobile device support requires a premium account but includes support for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone. Even some mobile browsers such as Dolphin and Firefox Mobile work with LastPass Premium to automate username and password entry. Finally, premium users get access to the LastPass support team, rather than being relegated to the user forums.

 

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