- A password manager is a tool that allows you to create, store, and manage all your passwords in one place.
- It’s available as a standalone app on computers and mobile phones and as a browser extension on web browsers.
- Using a password manager, not only can you store passwords but also generate new passwords, store your complete login credentials, and save other valuable information.
Passwords are everywhere! Whether it’s an email, social media, entertainment, or any other account, it almost certainly uses a password to prevent unauthorized access and keep your information secure.
However, if you have accounts in double figures, remembering the password for every single one of them isn’t practical. As a result, many people end up using weak passwords or reusing the same password across multiple accounts—both of which are bad internet habits and must be avoided.
A better way to approach this problem is to use a password manager on your computer or mobile device. But what exactly is a password manager, how does it work, and which password manager should you use? Here’s a guide to help you out.
What Is a Password Manager?
A password manager is a tool that allows you to create, store, and manage all your passwords in one place. It’s available as a standalone app on computers and mobile phones and as a browser extension on web browsers.
With a password manager, you essentially get an encrypted database, which is secured using a master password and stored either on your device or hosted remotely on the password manager’s server. This master is the only password you need to remember to access all your other passwords and login information in your password vault. Hence, when setting up your master password, make sure it’s strong and complex.
Aside from storing login information, most password managers also come with a secure vault, which lets you store other valuable information, like software licenses, membership cards, etc., on it securely. Of course, depending on the password manager you decide to use, you may or may not get access to certain features, and in some cases, the password manager may limit some of them as premium features.
Why Should You Use a Password Manager?
One of the main reasons you may want to use a password manager is to manage and access all your account passwords effectively and effortlessly. But that’s not all: there are various other reasons to use a password manager.
1. A password manager doubles as a password generator and assists you in generating complex and strong passwords that are hard to crack. So when you’re signing up for a new account, you can tell your password manager to generate a password and tweak the parameters for how strong and complex your password needs to be, and it will create one for you.
2. Since most password managers have a built-in password generator, changing passwords for multiple accounts at once becomes a lot easier with a password manager. This is because when you want to change a password already in use, you simply need to open its entry in the password generator and regenerate a new password. After which, the password manager automatically replaces the existing password with it and starts using it for your subsequent logins.
3. Almost all password managers these days, be it the offline ones or the online ones, come with autofill functionality to ease the login process. How this works is that the password manager identifies the website you visit and recommends the accounts you can sign in with on the service, which you can then simply tap on to autofill the login form and access the account.
4. If you’re sharing any of your accounts’ access with your family members, friends, or peers, a password manager can help you share your passwords for such accounts in a secure manner. Depending on the password manager you’re using, you may even get the option to set the access settings for the passwords you share with others.
5. In the event that an online service you use is attacked by hackers and all its user data is said to have been leaked in the data breach, the vulnerability check feature—available on most password managers—can prove to be a lifesaver. Basically, what this feature does is analyze your password and try to identify if it’s been exposed in the attack, so you can quickly change it with a new one and reinstate your account’s security.
What Should You Look for in a Password Manager?
Once you’ve decided to use a password manager, there are a few things you must keep in mind when choosing a password manager.
1. Security is the number one thing you should check in a password manager. As such, always make sure to look at details like the encryption standards used to encrypt passwords and the platform (local or online) used to store all your information.
Subsequently, look for password managers that come with 2FA (software or hardware), which adds a second layer of security to your account in addition to the master password. With the 2FA in place, whenever you log in to your password manager, the app asks you to enter the authentication code, which can be either a software-based code generate on apps like Google Authenticator or a hardware key-based code like the one from YubiKey.
Alternatively, some password managers also use biometric authentication, which is also very effective at securing your password vault.
2. Although most password managers these days feature a built-in password generator, be sure the one you’re thinking of using does come with one. As mentioned earlier in the guide, a built-in password generator can help you generate strong and complex passwords right inside the password manager and eliminate the need for you to do it manually.
3. Apart from the ability to store passwords alone, another thing to look for in password managers is an isolated vault. Such vaults can be used to store other confidential information like software licenses, membership cards, etc.—the kind of information you otherwise refrain from keeping on your notes app.
4. Another excellent feature that is a must on every password manager is auto-fill. As the name suggests, this feature saves you the hassle of entering the username/email address and password every time you need to log in to a website. If you’ve got multiple accounts on a service, it brings up the list of all your accounts, so you can tap on the one you need to use to log in and access it.
5. If you use more than one device to access all your various online accounts, you’d certainly also want to have all our login credentials synced across all your devices to access them wherever and whenever required. That way, you don’t have to open your password database on your primary device every time you need to log in to a service.
Which Is the Best Password Manager?
A password manager can take various forms and come with different sets of capabilities. As such, there isn’t a single password manager that stands out above the rest, and since different people have different requirements, what may work for you or fit your requirements may not cut it for others.
But that said, to make the selection process easier for you, here are a few of the most popular and widely used password managers:
Password Management Simplified
A password manager is an indispensable tool to have on your computers and smartphones these days, regardless of whether you’re tech-savvy or an average user. Considering you’ve seen this article through, you should have a solid idea about what a password manager is and how it can help you with various mundane password-management tasks while also increasing the security of your accounts.
Hence, going forward, we recommend you pick a password manager that meets your requirements, download it on all your devices (phone, computer, tablet), and start using it right away.
Pro Tip: In addition to using a password manager, make sure to enable two-factor authentication on all your accounts for added security.