2023 Password Manager Comparison: Free and Paid Options
A password manager is a valuable security tool for individuals and businesses. Free password managers address many basic password safety and storage concerns, while extra features add convenience and security for an additional cost. With a wide range of options and features available, what should you consider in your password manager comparison?
How to choose the right password manager
When selecting the best password manager, each individual or business has unique needs and preferences. Reviewing some important selection criteria can help you separate the must-have features from the nice-to-haves.
- Security: Password managers are among the most important security tools for your device or network. Features like password encryption, 2-factor authentication (2FA), and secure external password storage improve your security profile. Each password manager’s cybersecurity rating, which is based on factors like IP reputation and information leaks associated with the company, is another important security consideration.
- Usability: For businesses, a password manager that is not user-friendly is likely to have a low adoption rate. For individuals, usability is based on initial setup time, error tolerance, and easy customization of settings. Password sharing, in which a unique, encrypted vault is set up to securely share passwords with others, can improve both usability and security by making this common practice safer. Free trials are a great way to preview the usability of a password manager.
- Support: If a user needs help, they need resources they can turn to, like live support, email support, information libraries, and video tutorials. When comparing password management tools, you should make sure the support resources you need are included and readily available. Not all password managers provide the same level of support.
- Budget: Most password managers are quite affordable, so it’s never a good idea to select based on price tag alone. Avoid free browser password managers since they typically don’t provide the encryption and secure storage needed to keep your information safe, and they may even sell your data to the highest bidder. However, many standalone password managers offer free plans with outstanding options and additional features for a modest subscription price.
- Brand reputation: There’s no shortage of password manager reviews available online with side-by-side rankings and comparisons. These reviews provide useful pros and cons, feature lists, and pricing information. Be sure to read several reviews, so your information is up-to-date and complete. A little online research will also help you learn more about the brand reputation and history of the password manager.
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Securing your passwords with a password manager
Why do you need a password manager? Before you choose between the best free and paid options, it’s important to look at some benefits of password managers that continue to win customer loyalty.
- Long and unique passwords are autogenerated: A password manager automatically creates strong and unpredictable passwords for all your accounts.
- Stored passwords can be conveniently autofilled: Once you’ve logged in to your password manager and saved your passwords, an autofill feature automatically populates usernames and passwords for you when you return to the same website or app.
- Passwords are encrypted before they leave your device: Encryption is a scrambling method that makes passwords unreadable and unusable to intruders. A good password manager will encrypt your information before it even leaves your device.
- Passwords are stored in a secure cloud location: Password managers store your information on secure, external cloud servers using zero-knowledge architecture, where they’re always protected from hacks and data breaches.
- Passwords are protected if a data breach occurs: A password manager generates long and complex passwords that are also securely stored and encrypted. This keeps your information safe during a data breach since it’s never accessible to intruders in an unprotected format.
What are the features of a password manager?
To complete an informed password manager comparison, you should review some of the important features offered with the free and paid versions of each vendor’s products.
While specific offerings vary, these valuable features and functions are currently available with many free password managers, including Dashlane:
- Secure storage and autofill: Store encrypted passwords and other data on secure servers, then let convenient autofill take over. The best password management tools provide variable autofill settings and preferences that tailor the experience to the user.
- Zero-knowledge architecture: This product design feature ensures that only end users can access unencrypted passwords and other private information. Zero-knowledge architecture means even the password management company can never view your information.
- Secure sharing: Encrypted, dedicated portals for password sharing allow you to transfer personal or work application passwords to trusted people without increasing your vulnerability to hacks and data breaches.
- 2-factor authentication: This feature uses a second credential, such as a code sent through an app, text, or email, to confirm user identity. The added layer of password security is worth the few additional seconds of login time.
- Password health scoring: This feature includes convenient dashboards and scorecards to track the strength of your own passwords or the organization’s overall password health. The Dashlane Password Health score tool also provides useful tips that help you improve your security profile over time.
- Personalized security alerts: If one of your logins has been involved in a data breach, your password manager should alert you right away so you can change that login.
You can take your security profile and experience to the next level by incorporating some of the optional features included with affordable paid subscription plans.
- Secure synchronization: As users transition seamlessly from one device to another, secure synchronization allows passwords to sync instantly. Password changes can be completed and dispersed from any of the user’s computers, smartphones, or tablets.
- Friends and family plans: Group password manager plans allow multiple users to enjoy the benefits of a password manager for a reduced cost. With the Dashlane Friends & Family plan, all members of your circle share in the subscription, but each person’s account and data remain independent.
- Dark web monitoring: This feature scans the depths of the dark web for your logins and personal information. It alerts you instantly if your information is detected so you can reset your passwords and protect yourself.
- VPN for WiFi protection: Public WiFi networks increase your vulnerability to fake WiFi hotspots and data intercepts. A virtual private network (VPN), included with the Dashlane Premium plan, encrypts data going into or out of your device to improve protection on risky networks.
Special password management considerations in 2023
In 2023, our devices, workplaces, security threats, and password management best practices are changing—all at once! As you search for the best password manager app, keep some of these recent developments in mind:
- More accounts and passwords than ever
The long list of passwords and accounts we maintain for personal and business use makes it harder to keep passwords safe. Poor password hygiene practices like reusing passwords become more common when we have too many passwords to keep track of. Unsafe password storage practices like unlocked spreadsheets or scraps of paper under laptops also tend to grow along with the number of passwords.
- Remote working and BYOD policies
With work-from-home (WFH) and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies on the rise, it’s even more important to create ground rules for how, when, and where devices can be used for work and personal use. A BYOD policy is part of an effective cybersecurity strategy that includes processes and resources designed to minimize cyber risk. This includes using password managers to reduce company exposure if a data breach impacts a BYOD device.
- Users on multiple browsers
Improved broadband internet service and feature-rich tablets and smartphones that have made BYOD and WFH policies possible also make mixing and matching devices and internet browsers easier. Dashlane Password Manager works with all leading browser types and operating systems, including Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. Passwords can be synced instantly between all devices.
- Rising occurrence of cyberattacks
Data breaches are becoming more common each year, and hacking tactics like phishing, brute-force attacks, and credential stuffing rely on poor password protection to gain unauthorized access. In 2023, it’s imperative to have the best password keeper and strategy in place to safeguard your logins, financial information, and privacy.
- Password managers are now considered critical
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued an executive order listing password managers as critical software. While this designation applies primarily to software developers and contractors for the U.S. government, it could soon become a requirement for the private sector as well.
- Rising password manager use
With or without government mandates, organizations and individuals are recognizing the value of password managers as they look for solutions to keep their information safe and secure. Recent studies have shown that 52% of employees believe their organization needs a password management solution. It should come as no surprise that password manager sales are expected to climb nearly 25% over the next six years.
Protecting yourself or your organization with password management best practices is simple with a password manager. You can create a shortlist of contenders by prioritizing security, usability, customer support, your budget, and a password manager’s brand reputation. Then, focus on must-have features like zero-knowledge architecture, a VPN, and dark web monitoring to identify the best password manager for your unique needs.
Learn how 1Password, LastPass, Keeper, Bitwarden, Zoho Vault, RoboForm, and Dashlane stack up against each other in the Business Buyer’s Guide to Password Managers.
- Dashlane, “What Is Encryption?” March 2019.
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- Dashlane, “Executive Order on Cybersecurity Names Password Managers Critical Software—What It Means for Your Business,” August 2021.
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- Dashlane, “2022 The Future of Secure Work for People + Organizations,” 2022.
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- Dashlane, “Business Buyer’s Guide to Password Managers,” 2022.
- NIST, “Critical Software – Definition & Explanatory Material,” June 2021.