How Do Password Managers Work?

Password managers are applications that can store, sync, and share passwords and other pieces of information. For example, some password managers accept things like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and personal notes in addition to usernames and passwords.

Most people who aren’t using a dedicated password manager store passwords in their browser or a cloud account, such as iCloud. When you get started with a password manager, you’ll have the chance to import passwords from your existing provider. The password manager should also be able to recognize new passwords when you use them and enter them on the corresponding site automatically.

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What Are the Benefits of Password Managers?

Without a password manager, it’s difficult for most people to create and remember strong passwords for each of their accounts. However, that’s far from the only reason to use a password manager. Let’s look at some of the main arguments for and against using a password manager.

Access Across Devices

If you’ve ever tried to log into one of your accounts on a different device from the device used to sign up, you know how frustrating this can be. For example, even if your passwords are stored on your work computer, they won’t pop up on your phone unless you set up cross-device syncing.

In 2023, virtually every major password manager streamlines access on all devices. As long as you’re logged in using your master password, you can log in seamlessly regardless of the device you’re using. If you change a password on one device, you won’t have to worry about updating it on the rest of them.

Accessing accounts on different devices, apps, and browsers is a key issue for browser-based password managers. When you want to use a new device, app, or even just a different browser, you’ll have to figure out how to import your passwords from your existing browser. Some browsers have started to close the gap concerning cross-device compatibility, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of a dedicated password manager.

Password Generation

Most current password managers include password generators that can create strong passwords quickly. You won’t have to think about whether a password is strong enough or whether you’ll be able to remember it — let your password manager do the work for you.

Some password managers offer fine-grained customization options that give users full control over their generated passwords. For example, you might be able to set the number of characters, the types of characters included, such as capital letters or special characters, and whether you want to use a password or passphrase. Whatever kinds of passwords you want to use, you’ll be able to create them instantly and save them to your password manager account.

Password Sharing

If you don’t have a secure password manager, it can be surprisingly complicated to share passwords safely. Channels like email and short message service (SMS) aren’t great for sending sensitive information and writing passwords down on a physical piece of paper is never a good idea.

Even after sharing your password with someone, you still have to send them another update every time you change that password in the future. Furthermore, you won’t be able to stop them from copying and pasting your password and sending it to anyone else they want.

Password managers streamline the process of sharing passwords without sacrificing security. While each provider’s approach is different, every major password manager encrypts data in transit so that it can’t be intercepted by any third parties.

If you’re looking to share account passwords with family members, you can also find family subscriptions that usually come with support for five or six users. Shared family vaults are an easy way to manage shared accounts without having to text or email passwords back and forth.

Additionally, most password managers give users options when it comes to sharing information. For example, you could enable the recipient to use the password through autofill without letting them see the password text or share it with anyone else. Overall, password sharing is one of the main advantages of dedicated password managers compared to other solutions.

Remembering Passwords

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons to use a password manager is that you won’t have to remember your passwords anymore. Instead, you’ll just have to remember a single master password that controls access to the individual passwords for each of your accounts.

Without a password manager, people often rely on a single, memorable password that they use for some or even all of their accounts. Unfortunately, this approach makes your accounts extremely vulnerable to common hacking strategies.

If any of the websites or apps you use are breached, the difference between a strong password and a weak one is a matter of time. Once a bad actor gets one of your passwords, there’s a good chance they’ll see if it works on other sites as well.

Even if your one password is extremely resistant to hacking attempts, no single password can offer as much protection as a set of unique passwords. Adding variations, such as adding numbers or special characters to the end of your usual password, won’t do much to protect your accounts.

By generating, storing, and syncing passwords, password managers remove the need for people to memorize each of their passwords. This makes account access both more secure and more convenient for the user.

Which Password Manager Should You Use?

If you’re ready to start using a dedicated password manager, the next step is determining which platform to use. With so many different options available, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and find the application that offers the best value for your budget and needs.

Since everyone is looking for something different, it’s impossible to recommend just one password manager for every reader. However, these five platforms are a great place to start your search due to their features, ease of use, and overall value.


1Password is a solid all-purpose password manager that’s hard to find any major faults with. It’s available for macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, Linux, and even Chrome OS. Unfortunately, there’s no ongoing free option, but you can start with a 14-day free trial if you’re new to the service.

After the trial period, 1Password subscriptions cost $2.99 per month paid annually. The family plan comes with all premium features plus family sharing and other family-specific tools for a single payment of $4.99 per month billed annually.

1Password has excellent feedback from most users, but there are more reports of technical issues among Android reviewers. In general, 1Password subscribers seem to have excellent experiences, especially with respect to customer support. Numerous users mentioned that the 1Password service team was more responsive and helpful than they were expecting.


Bitwarden is an open-source password manager with both free and paid options. The free plan is one of the best options for users who don’t want to spend any money on their password manager.

While free users miss out on some more advanced features, they can still access Bitwarden on an unlimited number of devices and store an unlimited number of passwords. It’s a great choice for basic password manager functionality.

Furthermore, Bitwarden’s paid plan is extremely affordable relative to most competitors at just $10 per year, which works out to less than $1 per month. On top of the free tools, premium users also get some extra features like emergency access, 1 GB of file storage, and support for additional two-factor authentication (2FA) options.

While 1Password struggles with mixed feedback on Android, Bitwarden has extremely positive reviews across all devices and operating systems. Users are especially satisfied with Bitwarden’s responsive customer support — one even mentioned that they received a reply within an hour of sending a message on a Sunday morning.


Keeper is a cybersecurity provider that offers a dedicated password manager as well as some other solutions such as encrypted messaging, which is more secure than traditional SMS messaging.

Unlike most other password managers in 2023, Keeper doesn’t offer any kind of free tier for users who don’t want to spend money. You can start with a 30-day free trial, but you have to pay for a subscription after that to maintain access to your vault.

The base Keeper password manager costs $2.91 per month billed annually. This comes with all password management features, but you can also add dark web monitoring and secure file storage through the Keeper Plus Bundle. The bundle sets you back $4.87 per month billed annually, which is significantly more expensive than other password managers like Bitwarden that offer the same features.

Keeper has solid reviews on many different platforms, including the best mobile reviews we’ve seen from a password manager in 2023. As with Bitwarden, most users have great things to say about Keeper’s service — one reviewer mentioned that they were having trouble logging in, and the Keeper team immediately helped them recover their account. You can contact Keeper through email or live chat.


NordPass is a popular password manager from the same group that’s behind other leading cybersecurity solutions like NordLocker and NordVPN. Nord’s products stand out for their sleek, stylish interface and generally strong ease of use across all platforms.

The free version of NordPass comes with unlimited devices and passwords, but it only includes a restricted set of features. At $2.49 per month paid every two years, Premium introduces persistent login, password sharing, password health checks, dark web monitoring, and other extra tools. The rate goes up to $2.99 per month if you pay annually or $4.99 per month if you pay monthly.

Similarly, NordPass family plans run $4.99 per month paid every two years, $5.99 per month paid annually, or $7.99 per month paid monthly. Each family subscription comes with support for up to six user accounts. All paid plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

On the other hand, NordPass reviews are a little more mixed than we saw with 1Password, Bitwarden, or Keeper. Most users are happy with the interface and the value of the free plan, but a surprising number of reviewers report experiencing technical issues. For example, many different users had trouble getting NordPass to recognize new passwords automatically when they entered them for the first time.


LastPass is a powerful password manager with free and paid subscriptions as well as dedicated solutions for business clients. It stands out with respect to app compatibility due to its support for macOS, Windows, and Linux plus iOS, Android, and five different web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Microsoft Edge.

Just as LastPass supports users on all different platforms, it also comes with a comprehensive set of features that covers virtually every use case. Some functions are missing from the free plan, but premium subscribers get all of the following tools:

  • 1 GB of file storage
  • Dark web monitoring
  • Password sharing
  • Emergency access
  • Password generator
  • 2FA, including LastPass authenticator

Paid LastPass plans run $3 per month paid annually, and you can get a full refund with no questions asked for a full 30 days after opening your new subscription. Family plans come with the same guarantee and are $1 more per month. As a family subscriber, you can manage family members and share items within the group, but each individual member still has access to their own private vault.

LastPass is another example of a password manager with unusually negative feedback on Android. Outside of Android, we found that LastPass subscribers are satisfied with the application’s ease of use, agreeing that the platform streamlines the process of creating and syncing passwords.

The most consistent criticism we found was that LastPass doesn’t offer great value for the money — it’s at least as expensive as the four services mentioned above, and more than three times the price of a comparable Bitwarden subscription.

What Should You Do Next?

Some people are hesitant about switching to a dedicated password manager — either because they’re concerned about their security, or simply because they’re unfamiliar with this kind of software. That said, password managers are a good idea for most internet users because they make it easier to keep track of your passwords while also making your accounts more secure.

At this point, you’re ready to start looking for the right password manager to fit your lifestyle. With free and low-cost plans available from many providers, you don’t have to spend much or any money to stay on top of your passwords. Check out our list of the best free password managers for more information.

Password Manager FAQs

  • Can You Trust Password Managers?

    Password managers won’t fix all of your cybersecurity concerns overnight, but it’s important to understand that the top platforms come from trustworthy providers that take the necessary precautions to protect user information. All major password managers encrypt user data — while most use industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption, a few rely on alternative encryption methods either instead of or along with AES 256-bit.

    Additionally, most of the top password managers come with convenient features for password sharing. It’s much safer to share your passwords through a dedicated password manager than to share them through an unsecured channel, such as email or SMS.

  • Are Free Password Managers Safe?

    A free password manager might sound too good to be true, but the fact is that there are many solid providers with free subscription options in 2023. While free tools come naturally with limited features compared to paid plans, that doesn’t mean they aren’t safe or reliable.

  • Which Type of Password Manager Is the Most Secure?

    Password managers usually store your information in the cloud, which makes it easy to keep consistent on multiple devices. Some providers also give users the option to store their passwords on a local device without putting them on the internet at all.

    If your goal is to completely optimize your cybersecurity, it’s impossible to beat the safety of a local hard drive. Even if someone figured out your username and password, they would need to steal the physical device to extract any information.

    However, this isn’t to say that cloud-based password managers are unsafe. If you use a strong master password and secure your account with 2FA, the risk of someone compromising your account is extremely low. But the possibility of a hack from a remote device is only possible if you store information in the cloud.

  • Are There Any Alternatives to Password Managers?

    If you don’t have any trouble creating and remembering unique, strong passwords for every one of your online accounts, then there’s no reason for you to use a password manager. However, this is an impossible task for most people, and there’s no alternative to a secure password manager when it comes to generating strong passwords and keeping track of them across different devices.