Bitwarden has been on the scene of password management and privacy software solutions since 2015. It advertises itself as one of the best free, open-source password managers currently available for individuals, teams and businesses. In this review, we’ll be taking a look at Bitwarden’s history, at how claims about the software’s quality, features and the extent of its customer support stack up and who can benefit the most from using it. Read on to learn whether Bitwarden could be the password management solution for you.
Pros & Cons of Bitwarden
|Bitwarden is compatible with popular platforms and browsers.||Bitwarden doesn’t have live chat or phone support.|
|Bitwarden makes all of its code easy to view and customize.||If you need password sharing for more than five users, it’s necessary to upgrade to a business plan.|
|Particularly for open-source software, Bitwarden is gratifyingly easy to use.||Relatively no-frills desktop app.|
|Bitwarden provides added password security with two-factor authentication.||The company could support more in the way of custom categories.|
|Bitwarden’s paid tiers of service provide additional features at a nominal cost.|
Key Features of Bitwarden
We looked at the five most important features of any password manager: security and encryption, app compatibility, ease of setup and use, password sharing, and price. Below is a breakdown of what Bitwarden delivers on each front.
Security & Encryption
Bitwarden offers encryption on a zero-knowledge model — meaning only you have access to your passwords — using the cipher AES-256, which protects passwords using hundreds of thousands of rounds of password “hashing” that turns your passwords into scrambled versions of themselves that can’t be reverse-engineered. It gives you the option of hosting your passwords on Bitwarden’s servers or locally, eliminating any risk of a data breach on the company’s end.
The potential downside of zero-knowledge security and encryption is that, if you ever lose your password, it’s gone for good. But the overall upsides of Bitwarden’s approach are considerable: If you pair strong passwords with the deep password-hashing functionality the software provides, you should have plenty of peace of mind on the security front.
Bitwarden has been audited by third-party security experts, whom it invites to test its limits by making its source code fully available. It also offers two-factor authentication — a must for any modern password management solution — free for use with Google Authentication and email, for which you get a wider range of options with the Premium version.
Bitwarden comes in desktop, web app, and browser versions, with the latter supported in most popular web browsers. The web app provides the most functionality and flexibility, making it easy to access your vault online, whether or not Bitwarden is installed locally, and providing easy access to two-factor authentication, reports, and organizing tools. The desktop and browser apps both provide basic functionality and access to password generation, although they’re less robust overall than the web app. Still, all of the options on offer are usable and provide some flexibility in how you handle password management.
Impressively, even Bitwarden’s free plans offer multi-device syncing and unlimited online storage for items in your vault. This extends the effectiveness of the software’s web app version even further and is among the key factors that have buttressed its reputation as one of the best free password managers.
Bitward App Compatibility
|Other||Docker; CLI managers for Windows, Linux, macOS, Unix, Chocolatey, Homebrew and Snap|
Ease of Setup & Use
The download and setup process for Bitwarden, more than just being easy for open-source software (which isn’t always known for helpful UI), is easy in general. The software guides users in simple, easy-to-parse fashion through a painless download and signup process. There are separate download buttons for desktop and mobile apps, browser extensions and command-line installers, and it’s always clear what you’re looking at and what you need to do. It’s simple to create a Bitwarden account from inside the desktop app by providing an email and a master password.
Bitwarden’s desktop app is easy to use and provides some welcome forms of flexibility, specifying how new passwords are tied to URLs, domain names, hostnames or other combinations of factors and letting you decide whether the software should ignore certain domain names to avoid phishing attempts. The one downside is that Bitwarden’s vault supports logins, credit cards, notes and address information but otherwise does not allow for customized items.
Bitwarden’s mobile app provides free support for biometric logins using fingerprints or face recognition. Overall, the software more than delivers on the convenience and ease of use fronts.
It’s in the area of password sharing that Bitwarden’s free service is most restricted, allowing sharing with just one other user. For personal use, even its paid personal and teams plans limit sharing to just five users. For more robust sharing options, it’s necessary to sign up for an Enterprise business plan.
The good news is that the Enterprise plan delivers significant added functionality that allows sharing through “organizations.” The approach to sharing is highly secure, set up by a multistep “handshake” process that confirms the authenticity of the participants in several ways. Other added features include user groups, fine-grained access control, and APIs that allow integration of Bitwarden with other tools and systems.
Though it’s necessary to pay more to get solid password sharing features out of Bitwarden, those features, once you have access to them, are very solid; and even after you leave the free service, the pricing structure is remarkably affordable.
Pricing & Support
Bitwarden’s free service provides extraordinarily high-quality essential features, including unlimited storage and multi-device syncing. Its Premium services are very inexpensive at $10 per year, although only a few features differentiate them from Bitwarden Free, in particular a gigabyte of encrypted cloud storage (a nice feature but not particularly noteworthy as paid services go). Its Team plan costs $60 per year for five users (and an additional $24 annually for each user beyond that), and its Enterprise business service costs $3 per user per month (billed annually) and delivers a wealth of added features.
As an open-source project, Bitwarden has an active online forum community, valuable tutorials and a consistently updated knowledge base. It’s also possible for users, especially Premium users, to email the developers for support. This level of support for an open-source project isn’t common and is worth remarking on, even if Bitwarden doesn’t provide phone or chat support.
Bitwarden Plans & Pricing
|Bitwarden Free (Individual)||Free (fully functional)|
|Premium||$10 / year|
|Families Organization||$1 / month (5 users)|
|Teams||$5 month (5 users, additional users at $2 per user / mo.)|
|Enterprise||$3 per user / month|
How Bitwarden Works
|Functionality||How It Works|
|Setting up the vault||Import feature from browsers and other password managers, and accounts added during login process|
|Logging into accounts||Log into accounts from any system with a compatible web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge, Safari, Vivaldi, Brave, Tor), using the web app; login through desktop app in Windows, MacOS or Linux; login through mobile app|
|Creating passwords||Secure password generator in desktop and online apps|
|Changing passwords||Passwords generated using browser extension|
|Sharing logins||Robust sharing features through organizations in Family, Team and Enterprise service tiers|
|Recovering account||Lost master passwords cannot be recovered due to Bitwarden’s zero-knowledge model that ensures only you have access to your passwords. Delete account and existing vault and restart from scratch.|
|Advanced security features||Multi-factor authentication; biometric login with fingerprint and face recognition; strong encryption through password hashing with AES-256 cipher; secure multi-handshake password sharing; option to self-host passwords|
What Customers Are Saying
Customers appreciate the user-friendly interface and seamless operation of Bitwarden. As one user puts it, “User friendly and working well. I love that it is secure in the cloud and available across all my devices . . . The tools available via the Chrome extension including password generator and ‘auto fill’ feature all work very well.” Another user expresses their overall appreciation of the software’s performance, saying, “Truly incredible open source password manager.”
Bitwarden is an extremely strong contender in the password management market, with features in its free version that rival some of what other software provides at paid commercial tiers. Though it could still add features — in particular, the ability to customize vault items — its extremely secure zero-knowledge encryption model and user-friendly interface combine with an impressive feature list to make it a solid choice for individuals seeking an excellent free password manager or (at the Enterprise tier) businesses seeking an inexpensive but powerful solution for their needs.