You probably have a lot of passwords, so it's understandable that you probably use the same one over and over again - understandable, but not safe.
Keeping our online accounts secure is hugely important, but trying to remember all the individual passwords for them is a real struggle. We know that it's important to use original passwords for each account, and update them on a regular basis, but it can be a Herculean task trying to retain that information in our heads. This is made even more challenging with different sites requiring specific mixtures of characters: this one demands at least two symbols and no capitals, while this one requires a mixture of cases and a minimum length.
That's where password manager apps come in. These allow users to create one master password, after which the app takes care of logging into all other accounts. Having only a single login to remember? That sounds good to us.
Luckily Apple is here to help with iCloud Keychain, which is available on all Apple devices and will generate secure passwords and enter them for you automatically. iCloud Keychain is incredibly useful, but it lacks some of the features offered by other password managers.
In our round up of the best password managers we will look at a selection of the best Mac password managers available at the moment.
How password managers work
The idea of password managers is to simplify the way you access your various accounts. Instead of having to memorise multiple complex passwords for each of the services you use you need only recall one password and then the password manager will automatically fill in the required details for you.
The managers also offer various other features. For example, they can generate random, highly secure, passwords for your accounts, they can warn you if your password has been compromised, and some can advise you about existing insecure passwords and support your efforts to update them.
Obviously, security is a high priority - as the manager apps have the virtual keys to your kingdom - which is why all of the options listed below use high-grade encryption to protect your details.
Many also feature digital wallets, so your bank details can be safely stored and then used to make purchases online without having to root around in your pocket or bag for the card number and expiry date.
These services don't usually come for free, but many offer trials so you can see if it's the solution for you. After that you'll need to pay a small monthly fee, but we think that's a price worth paying for only having to keep one password in your brain.
What is the best password manager?
You might think the best password manager would be a free one - in which case Apple's iCloud Keychain is a great option. However, we'd generally advise against choosing a free options because your security is paramount and you don't know how safe your data will be if you use a free service.
If you don't want to pay some of the options below offer a free tier though. LastPass, Dashline's free tier is limited to one device, while Bitwarden actually has quite a good free offering. Others have a free trial: in the case of 1Password this is for 30-days, and Enpass is free for macOS, but you'll have to pay if you want to also include a smartphone.
There is a good reason to pay for a service even with iCloud Keychain. Unlike iCloud Keychain the alternatives below aren't limited to Apple devices. Many let you store bank card details to simplify payments, others can store details like your passport or driving licence, as well as a way to pass access to a next of kin should something happen to you. Security tends to be high on the agenda, so you can expect strong encryption, but some services even offer a VPN.
The following reviews will fill you in on what exactly each service offers so that you can make an informed decision about which is best for you.
There are lots of password managers available, but you may be wondering if you really need one based on the fact that Apple is already here to help you remember all your passwords.
iCloud Keychain is Apple's own password management system and it is built into macOS and iOS. iCloud Keychain addresses the fundamental problems with passwords: the fact that they need to be secure and that we shouldn't just use the same one over and over again. The problem is that because we have so many passwords to remember they are often anything but secure.
Luckily you don't need to remember 100s of complex passwords: Apple has a solution built into iOS and macOS. iCloud Keychain helps you to create secure passwords by generating them on your behalf, warns you if you reuse one or if a password is not secure, and, crucially, auto-fills your passwords as and when needed so that you don't need to remember them. It's all tied to your Apple ID login and password and the Apple devices you have registered for two-factor authentication, plus everything is encrypted, so it should be secure.
Once you are logged onto one of your Apple devices your login information should be filled in automatically for the various services you use. That's alone is brilliant, but iCloud Keychain doesn't just fill in passwords for you: it can also enter your logins, emails, credit card numbers and address details.
However, one of the main disadvantages is that iCloud Keychain only works on Apple devices. If you have an Android phone or use a Windows PC iCloud Keychain is redundant and you will need to look your password information up and enter it manually. You can access this information by logging in to the Settings > Passwords section of an iPhone or iPad or by going to Safari > Preferences > Passwords on a Mac and entering your password for the device you are using.
Unfortunately the fact that iCloud Keychain is tied to Apple devices isn't the only disadvantage. Even if you are completely surrounded by Apple devices, if chose to use Chrome or FireFox rather than Safari you would again be shut out of the iCloud Keychain service.
There are a few other areas where iCloud Keychain lacks flexibility. For example, you can't specify criteria for the autogenerated secure passwords such as length, nor can iCloud Keychain assist you in updating existing passwords when an update is due, and it cannot warn you if your password has been compromised. Luckily there are alternatives that can do all of these things.
LastPass is probably the best-known password manager, thanks to it being one of the original pioneers in the field. The company places a strong emphasis on security, trumpeting the use of "AES 256-bit encryption with PBKDF2 SHA-256 and salted hashes to ensure complete security in the cloud".
The app does all of its encryption locally, so LastPass never knows your master password, and the Premium tier also supports two-factor authentication for another layer of security.
There are plugins and extensions available for Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Microsoft Edge all of which allow you to automatically access login details for sites and accounts or have LastPass autofill the login fields on your behalf. Mobile apps for iOS and Android can also be found in the relevant app store.
Just like with other managers you have access to a vault where all of your passwords are stored, and these can be changed to more complex alternatives at the touch of a button. LastPass will also advise you on how secure your passwords are for your existing accounts. Getting set up is easy too, as you can import existing passwords from web browsers, email and other password manager.
The app offers a digital wallet to store your card details, plus another area for official ID such as passports and driving licenses. The Note section is a place where you can keep Wi-Fi passwords, insurance details and any other important documents that you need to access. It's also possible to securely share account details and logins with friends and family, even if they don't have LastPass.
There is a free tier, although this is limited to one device, so if you want to sync across your Mac and iPhone you'll need to move up to the Premium tier. At the time of writing, this will cost £31.20/$36 per year. Those wanting more scope can opt for the family plan which includes six user accounts and only costs £40.80/$48 per year on the LastPass website.
One of the advantages of a paid plan is an Emergency backup which means that should you suffer an accident, or even pass away, then your family will be given access to your account.
Another long-standing favourite is 1Password. Much like the other offerings on this list the app comes with the standard vault that you access via a master password, and in which you can see and update your various account login details.
A free 30-day trial is available, but after that you'll need to move onto a paid subscription that currently costs £32.99/$35.88 per year. For this you'll be able to use the software on as many devices as you like, including Windows, ChromeOS and Linux, plus the accompanying iPhone and Android apps.
The Family tier costs £54.99/$59.88 per year and incudes five premium accounts and 1GB of secure storage. This does make it appear a little more expensive than some of the other services on this list, most of which have six accounts in the Family package.
Security is again front and centre, with 1Password boasting end-to-end encryption so only you will hold the key to your account. AES 256-bit is the order of the day, and 1Password monitors the activity on your account so it can send you warnings if any odd behaviour is spotted.
One interesting new feature is Travel mode. This allows you to completely remove certain information from your device when going abroad. In these strange times, this could prove very useful if you're passing through some of the rather aggressive customs checkpoints that now demand access to your devices. The best part is when you get home again everything can be restored by flicking a switch in the settings.
1Password has won numerous awards, and is always an easy service to recommend. Based in Canada too, so you know they're nice.
Dashlane is a hugely popular password manager, with a comprehensive suite of tools to make your loggin on life a lot easier. Once installed Dashlane can pull any stored account details you might have in your browsers, making them available in the dashboard area where they can be viewed and managed.
The app analyses your current passwords to see how secure they are, and gives you an overall rating based on how often you reuse login details on multiple sites. There's also a feature to auto-replace passwords instantly with ones generated by Dashlane.
Plugins and extensions are available for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, all of which will auto-fill forms and login details when you visit a website. Safari actually has a dedicated app in the App Store, with Dashlane planning to move away from desktop apps and focus on extensions and web versions in 2021. So, if you prefer managing your passwords on your Mac rather than online, you may want to factor that into your decision.
Credit card and PayPal details can be stored in the digital wallet section of the app, alongside digital versions of your passport and other IDs. There's also a section for any secure notes you wish to keep safe.
One of the newer features included is a VPN that you can use to keep your online acitivites even more secure, especially when using public Wi-Fi services (if that becomes a possibility again).
The clean, clear interface for Dashlane means it's easy to setup and use. The fact that it also features AES 256-bit encryption, and has apps for macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, makes it a very good option if you're new to password managers.
We did experience a few quirks here and there, with the auto-fill feature not always appearing straight away, while retaining new passwords and emails addresses accurately when on websites could be hit and miss, but overall it's a solid and reliable service.
The free tier allows the service to be used on one device and a maximum of 50 passwords, but if you want to sync your passwords to your phone and tablet too then the Premium tier will set you back £29.99/$39.99 per year.
If you want to cover your entire household, then the Family tier includes six premium accounts all for £49.99/$59.99 per year.
One of the newest additions to the password manager arena is NordPass, which is made by the same fine fellows at NordVPN. The latter is one of our favourite VPNs, as you'll see from our Best VPN for Mac roundup.
NordPass has grown quickly over the past couple of years, and now offers full desktop apps for macOS, Windows and Linux, plus the standard iOS and Android offerings. You can also NordPass through browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Edge, although sadly there's still no Safari version, which could be a deal-breaker if that's your preffered browser on Mac.
NordPass has all the features you'd expect from a modern password managers, with quick importing of existing passwords from other services, zero-knowledge architecture, local XChaCha20 algorithm encryption, 2-factor authentication, password generation, secure storage for credit details and notes, autofill for logging into accounts, folders to store passwords for work, home or other classifications, security monitoring for password hacks, plus a neat interface to manage all of your various data.
Prices are very reasonable, at £22.08/$29.88 per year for the Premium plan, and the 5 account Family plan for £47.88/$47.88 per year. There is a free tier, which supports unlimited passwords, stores credit card details and secure notes, plus has the ability to sync across all your devices. The main drawback is that you can only be logged into one device at a time. But, if you can work with that then it's a service you should definitely investigate.
When it comes to technology, we often say that you get what you pay for, but in the case of Bitwarden this isn't quite true. The service offers a really impressive range of capabilities on it's free tier, so with this app you get what you don't pay for!
Without signing up to a premium account you get unlimited storage for passwords, credit cards, notes and online account IDs, secure text messaging with individuals, a secure password generator, two factor authentication, plus the ability to either have your data stored on the Bitwarden servers or one you host yourself. Oh, and you can sync all your devices, rather than the single one offered by most other free tiers.
Should you want to expand the features, then the Premium tier costs £8/$10 per year and adds secure files sharing, 1GB of encrypted file attachments, additional two-factor authentication options, password safety analysis, and access to your account by family if you die or become sick. The Family plan offers all of this for six Premium accounts and costs £30/$40 per year, making it cheaper than several of the individual plans currently available.
Encryption is high-grade stuff, with Bitwarden deploying end-to-end AES-256 bit encryption, salted hashing, and PBKDF2 SHA-256, all of which is down locally on your machine.
Apps are available on a wide range of platforms, including macOS, Windows, Linux, pretty much every browser you can think of, Android, iOS and there's even a secure web version if you find yourself without your device.
If you're looking for the value when it comes to Password Managers, it's very hard to look past Bitwarden.
Keeper provides its services to millions of customers around the world. This doesn't come as a surprise when you see the feature list and general polish that the app contains. You can store unlimited passwords, have Keeper auto-generate strong new ones and sync passwords across multiple devices, all while holding credit card details and other important payment details in its secure vault.
AES 256-bit encryption is all performed locally, so Keeper can never know your details, but there is the option to securely share folders and passwords with friends and family if they need to access any of your accounts. The indcluded secure messaging service is also useful for communicating these requests
There's also support for Touch ID on the Mac and iPhone, with the latter also working with Face ID, plus Apple Watch compatibility and the option of using two-step authentication.
Keeper Unlimited Password Manager is available for £29.99/$34.99 per year, but there's also the Family tier that includes five premium accounts, plus 10GB of secure storage for £71.99/$74.99 per year. If you want even more protection, with the Breachwatch service that monitors password hacks and dark web activity, then there's there's the Keeper Plus Bundle that will set you back £50.72/$58.47 for a single account or £95.88/$103.48 for the Family plan.
Those looking for a simple, secure solution that doesn't break the bank would do well to consider Enpass.
The macOS client is completely free, but if you want to add the same features to your iPhone or Android device then you'll need to move to the Enpass Premium tier that costs £19.49/$23.99 per year or £12.99/$15.99 every six months. There's also a Family tier that offers six Premium accounts for £29.24/$35.99 in the first year, with slight increases when its time to renew. If you prefer to buy a Lifetime licence for yourself, you can pick one up for £63.99/$79.99.
Enpass doesn't store any of your information on its servers. Instead, everything is encrypted and kept on your personal device so you never lose control of your data. Details can be synced securely via iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box or ownCloud/WebDAV, to keep all of your devices in step.
You still have the classic features of other password managers, such as auto-fill forms, security analysis of your passwords and generating complex replacements easily, secure storage for sensitive information and AES 256-bit encryption, plus support for iOS, Android and Apple Watch devices.
There's plenty of fine tuning options for those who are a little bit more hands-on, but we like the no-nonsense approach and the fact that your data never leaves your device.