Online Password Manager Review
The Top Three Online Password Managers
Before we get into the details of our testing, let's talk about the best online password managers. LastPass earns our Gold Award for its extensive feature set. It is the only password manager that has every security feature we looked for in our proactive security testing, including a wealth of multifactor authentication options and the ability to automatically change passwords on compatible websites. LastPass also supports every platform we tested on and has a vibrant social media presence that makes technical support very easy.
Our Silver Award winner, Dashlane, has many tools to encourage you to regularly update your passwords. For example, it changes passwords automatically and tells you if any are compromised. Although this service doesn't support every platform we tested on, you shouldn't have any trouble getting it to work on your computer or smartphone. Dashlane's technical support is thorough, especially on social media.
RoboForm, our Bronze Award winner, is one of the most effective password managers because of its autofill functionality. You can store all kinds of information with this manager, such as addresses and driver's license info, and use it to fill forms on websites quickly and securely. RoboForm is one of three password managers in our review that supports every platform we considered, including Linux and Microsoft Edge.
While our top three password managers received the best overall scores in our review, the other seven services each stand out in their own way. Ultimately, your individual needs may be different than those we highlight, and no password manager is one size fits all. We invite you to read our test conclusions below and the reviews for each service to find the best password manager for you.
For more information about password management and related topics, check out our articles on protection services. For a look into why password managers matter, what we tested and some tips on choosing the right one for you, read the rest of this article.
Why Password Managers Matter
Let's be honest, humans are ill-equipped to create truly secure passwords since those we generate ultimately follow predictable patterns. This doesn't mean we can't come up with anything more secure than a simple word, but it's easier and safer to rely on password management software to do the job for you.
The chief advantage of this type of program is that you can create a single, ultra-secure password to access the manager, which can then quickly generate secure passwords for your favorite websites. This way, you only need to memorize one difficult password and can still access your many online accounts with very little effort.
Online password managers store your data behind layers of encryption and can make it easy to access your accounts on multiple computers or smartphones. Since each of us has dozens of logins, password managers are quite appealing.
What We Tested
Our biggest challenge in testing online password managers wasn’t discovering what each can do. We mostly focused on how each service encourages proactive security and whether it is easy to use. We also ran each program on a variety of platforms, including Windows and macOS desktops, Android smartphones, and iPads, so we could gather consistent data on how well the software works if you have multiple devices.
To gauge whether a service has adequate proactive security, we looked at the number of multifactor authentication methods, such as USB keys, fingerprints and third-party apps, it can use as additional layers of security on top of a master password. Password managers with more options scored higher. LastPass and Dashlane have the most authentication methods in our review, and Keeper has a healthy number as well.
We also checked whether the software evaluates your passwords to find possible weaknesses and encourages you to change them occasionally. The top-performing password managers in our review, LastPass and Dashlane, perform regular security checks and send helpful notifications about data breaches.
For the final part of our proactive security testing, we evaluated how the software changes and generates passwords. We looked at whether the managers can change multiple passwords automatically across multiple websites, since this is an excellent way to update your credentials without visiting each site separately.
A key factor with password generators is maximum password length, and RoboForm easily claimed the top spot at 512 characters. LastPass and Sticky Password can also generate extremely long passwords, with 100 and 99 characters respectively. While not every site can handle a password this long, it's nice to have the option. The average maximum password length in our review is 40 characters, which is still very secure.
Ease of Use
Since online password managers are about convenience as much as security, we looked at each program’s user interface across multiple platforms to see if it is consistent. This is especially important if you switch between a smartphone and a desktop computer and want your passwords available in both places. There were no significant differences between platforms across the services we reviewed.
We dug into each software’s menus to find every feature. Our top performers show every feature in a basic menu rather than hide them in submenus, which are harder to navigate. While you may not need every password management feature a service offers, you should be able to find them all easily. None of the software we tested are difficult to navigate.
The final piece of our ease of use testing looked at how well each service integrates into various operating systems and browsers. When a password manager app integrates well, you don’t have to switch back to it to access saved passwords and fill in forms in your browser or other software. Having to navigate back to the service to retrieve information can interrupt your workflow or slow down your browsing experience.
For the most part, the best password managers don’t change the way you log in to your favorite websites and are available as soon as you need them. While all of the services did well in our usability testing, LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password each earned perfect scores and were the easiest to use.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate normal, real-world experiences with online password managers. We obtained the software in our comparison through retail purchase. The developers had no input on our testing methodology, and we did not share our rankings with them prior to publication.
Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Password Manager
Our testing looked at how well the online password managers perform, but it's also important to consider what each one can do. In this section, we'll talk about less common features that only the best password managers have, a few key features that are part of every password manager and the best support channels to use when you need help with the software.
What Separates the Best From the Rest
When you compare the features in the table at the top of this page, you’ll probably notice that only five checkmarks separate the highest-ranked service from the lowest-ranked one. When there are so few differences, it can be hard to choose the right product for you. Some of the most important differences are secure notes, autofill forms and the ability to automatically save passwords.
A secures notes feature lets you store sensitive data, such as Wi-Fi passwords, bank account numbers, and your Social Security number, securely next to your internet passwords. This means you don't have to carry confidential documents around and can still access the information when you need to. However, just because the password manager can store something in a secure note, it doesn't mean you need to keep it there – many people are still uncomfortable storing this type of information electronically.
The last two features the best password managers have that other products don’t automate online tasks. The first can automatically fill in forms on websites when you create new accounts so you don't have to re-enter your address and other information every time. The second automatically saves any new passwords you create, whether or not you used the password generator – True Key is a good example of this.
Key Features in Every Password Manager
Every password manager has three crucial features: a vault, a password generator and a digital wallet. Vaults securely store your passwords behind encryption and a master password. Digital wallets let you store vital data such as addresses and credit card information for easy access when you shop or fill out forms online.
All cloud password managers work with the most popular web browsers, regardless of which operating system you use. Each service in our review works on Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer and most work with Safari and Opera, while about half support Microsoft's Edge browser.
Expect each of the password managers in our review work on the majority of smartphones and computers. This includes full functionality on Android, iOS, Windows and macOS, though the programs may not support older versions of these platforms or have as many features on them.
Social media is often the best way to get customer support since public posts tend to get quick responses. Most of the companies in our review have Twitter and Facebook accounts. While telephone and live chat support aren't as common for password manager services as social media, they are good options too.
Although all the companies in our review offer support by email, this contact method may not be as reliable since you’re likely to get a slower response than on social media and live chat or over the telephone. RoboForm and Keeper are the only companies in our review to offer all of these support channels.
Every one of us has dozens of logins to manage, and this number isn't likely to shrink any time soon. As more websites encourage registration for your convenience, not to mention theirs as well, secure password managers can make account creation easier and safer.