It’s extremely tempting to simply re-use the same password for multiple online services, leaving them all open to attack if just one is compromised. Conversely, using a unique login each time means you risk being locked out if you enter it incorrectly too many times. That's why you need a robust password manager and generator.
These programs combine letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and special characters to create unique and secure passwords resistant to dictionary attacks.
These passwords are then encrypted and stored away in a vault protected by a master login, which is the only password you need to remember. Once you've logged into this, the best password managers and generators will fill in your username and password automatically each time you visit a site that requires them.
Some of the best free password managers and generators store the encrypted login information on their own servers, while others mandate that you store them locally on your PC or a removable storage device. Here we've collected together the best of both worlds, so you can find the best free password manager for your needs.
Free, secure password creation and storage for all your accounts
LastPass comes in two different versions – free and premium. Both can generate and store a limitless number of account logins in a secure vault secured by a master password, employs multi-factor authentication, and will even complete online forms for you automatically.
The premium version also syncs across multiple devices, stores passwords for desktop programs, and lets you share secured folders with other people, with customizable permissions.
LastPass's defining feature is its almost unparalleled ability to generate strong, impossible-to-guess passwords for all your accounts, which it then saves for you. Gone are the days when you had to either remember long, unmanageable passwords, or having to risk your data by re-using the same password over and over again. It's a class act.
Superb password security for all web browsers and devices
Dashlane is LastPass's closest competitor, and like LastPass it's completely worth checking out, featuring one-click password generation, world-class security, breathless ease of use and ability to store notes for future reference.
It’s not just a Windows desktop program either, there are browser plugins and mobile versions, and similar to LastPass there's a premium version of Dashlane that includes unlimited sharing and syncing.
Dashlane Premium costs US$39.99 (about £30, AU$50) per year, but the free version features all the essentials: you get the core password manager, autofill and digital wallet features, all of which work flawlessly. Don't settle for LastPass without trying Dashlane first, and vice versa.
A superb desktop password manager with free mobile apps
RoboForm claims to be the best password manager in the world, and not unreasonably so. After a recent update, they’ve added support for storing a limitless amount of logins in the free version. It also boasts application logins, secure storage of notes, multi-platform support, and the ability to gain emergency access.
RoboForm Everywhere allows you to sync across devices, cloud backup and the ability to gain emergency access yourself. If you decide to buy a premium license, it’ll cost $19.95 or £15.95 (about AU$25) for one year, $49.95 or £39.95 (about AU$65) for three years, or $74.95 or £59.95 (about AU$95) for five years. There are also family subscriptions available for up to five users.
RoboForm might not be able to claim the same robust feature lists as their rivals, Dashlane or LastPass, but it's a very good password manager regardless and the free mobile apps are fantastic. Its password generator is particularly strong, allowing you to exclude similar characters and specify which special characters you need to meet specific password requirements.
Roboform is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and is a good option for anybody who wants a simple and secure way to sync passwords between laptop, desktop and mobile platforms.
A customizable password manager for more experienced users
It isn't the most aesthetically pleasing password manager in the world, but KeePass Password Safe offers robust security, multiple user support and downloadable plugins to expand its feature set.
KeePass's secure password generator can produce logins suitable for those annoying sites with very specific requirements, and clearly indicates any options that might make the generated password weaker.
The password manager features a portable installation, allowing it to run from USB without installing on a PC, it can input from and output to a wide range of file formats, and there are tons of customization options to play with.
The fact that KeePass Password Safe is open source means anyone can inspect the code for potential weaknesses, which means that any security issues can be identified and fixed quickly. It's a great app, if a bit intimidating for beginners.
Password management from the experts behind AVG Antivirus
Sticky Password comes from the team behind AVG Antivirus, so you can be sure that security is its top priority.
There are two editions of Sticky Password: free and premium. The premium edition adds cloud syncing and backup and costs $29.99 or £19.99 (about AU$40) a year. There's also a lifetime license available for $149.99 or £96.99 (about AU$200) – an option not offered by any other premium password manager.
Both versions of Sticky Password include a generator that can create secure logins for you while you're registering for new online accounts. It's straightforward to use, but doesn't offer as many customization options as the other services here.
The app works on PC, Mac, Android and iOS, supports fingerprint authentication on mobile, is available as a portable USB version and offers lots of sync options including Wi-Fi syncing with local devices.
Browser extensions are also available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer, but not Edge.