I won't shut up about password managers. They're among the most helpful (and important) tools a person can use, yet I know countless people who just keep writing down, forgetting and resetting the same few easily hacked credentials.
If that's you, it's time to get with the program — or in this case the app. Concerned about expense? Don't be: Many great password managers have very capable free versions. But there's one I think stands above most others (including those in our roundup of the best password managers), because it has one key capability most others charge for. It's called LastPass.
See it at LastPass
More on passwords
- Strong passwords: 9 rules to help you make and remember your login credentials
- New Year's resolution: Protect your credentials with the Google Chrome password manager
- This is how we might finally replace passwords
A password manager is an encrypted database of all your passwords. 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 benefit that's absolutely essential if you use more than one device.
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 (with family members and trusted friends) and so on.
Read more: The best free password managers and how to use them
Incredibly useful features like those help explain why I prefer LastPass (or any password manager, really) to the very rudimentary password-management capabilities built into Android, iOS and your 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 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.
LastPass Premium and other freebie options
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.
Should you bother with the Premium version, which costs $36 per year? (It was originally $12 and then jumped to $24; now it's triple the price.) 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, which lets you set up your account so a spouse or family member can access your passwords in case of crisis.
For the record, LogMeOnce is another 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, lots of users have pointed out Bitwarden, a hugely popular open-source utility that does syncing as well. It's available for every platform and device.
What's your preferred password-management method these days? And if you refuse to use a utility like LastPass, I'd like to know why! 😜
Now playing: Watch this: This free password manager offers one crucial feature 1:16
Originally published last year. Updated with new information.
CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest promo codes from Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.
Comments The Cheapskate Mobile Security Notification on Notification off Deals