I won’t shut up about password managers. They’re arguably among the most helpful (and important) tools a person can use, yet I know countless people who don’t use one.
Why? Too expensive? Actually, lots of the best password managers have very capable free versions. But there’s one I think stands above most others, because it has one feature most others charge for.
It’s called LastPass. The free version provides every feature most people need, and the Premium version (which I’ll talk about below) is very affordable at $2 per month (roughly £1.50, AU$2.50).
A password manager is an encrypted database of all your passwords. So instead of trying to remember that same handful of (probably not very secure) passwords you use everywhere you go online, you just have to remember one: the one that unlocks LastPass.
Why this over the likes of 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, Password Vault, Sticky Password and other products, all of which are perfectly good?
Simple: The free version of LastPass supports password synchronization. That means you can access your data on your phone, tablet and PC — a convenience I cannot overstate enough.
Beyond that, it offers common helpers like strong-password generation, automatic form-filling, encrypted credit card storage (for easier online shopping), a digital vault, password sharing and so on.
All that stuff is one reason I prefer LastPass (or any password manager, really) to the password-management capabilities built into Google, iOS or a web browser. Indeed, I think once you get accustomed to having those tools at your disposal, you’ll wonder how you managed so long without them.
Make no mistake, there’s a learning curve to LastPass, starting with the process of importing any existing passwords you might have. What’s more, if you’re an iOS 12 user, you’ll find that while LastPass can autofill existing passwords into your apps, iOS doesn’t allow it to automatically capture new ones — meaning you’ll have to manually add them as you sign up for new sites and services.
That small hassle is greatly overshadowed by the overall convenience of the app. Your goal as an internet citizen should be to use a different, robust password for each app, site and service, and a password manager is the only practical way to make that happen. You should be using one. And LastPass is, to my thinking, the best free option out there.
What about the aforementioned Premium version? I’d argue that the handful of additional features you get — including one-to-many password sharing, priority tech support and 1GB of encrypted storage — are superfluous for most users. The one exception is emergency access, meaning you can set up your account so a spouse or family member can access your passwords in case of crisis.
For the record, LogMeOnce is another very robust password manager that also supports password-syncing in its free version. I don’t like it as much, but it’s definitely worth a look. Meanwhile, be sure to check out CNET’s catalog of the best password managers of 2019, just so you know all your options.