Creating and remembering secure passwords for all your online accounts can be a huge hassle. Re-using the same password for multiple service leaves them all open to attack if just one is compromised, but using a unique login each time means you risk being locked out if you type it incorrectly too many times.
That's why you need a secure password generator and manager. These programs combine letters (both upper and lower case), numbers and special characters to create strong passwords resistant to dictionary attacks.
These passwords are then encrypted and stored in a vault protected by a master login, which is the only one you need to remember. Once you've logged into this, the best password generators and managers will fill in your username and password automatically each time you visit a site that requires them.
Some password generators and managers store the encrypted login details on their own servers, while others require you to keep them locally on your PC or a removable storage device. Here we've rounded up the best of both, so you can pick the type that suits you best.
Free, secure login storage and generation – LastPass is the best password manager around
There are two versions of LastPass – free and premium. Both can generate and store an unlimited number of account logins in a secure vault protected by a master password, will complete online forms for you automatically, and can employ multi-factor authentication.
The premium edition also syncs across multiple devices, stores passwords for desktop programs, and lets you share secured folders with other people. with customizable permissions.
One of LastPass's best features is its ability to generate strong, unguessable passwords for all your accounts, which it then stores for you. There's no need to remember long, awkward streams of characters, or re-use the same password for multiple accounts. It's a class act.
Review and where to download: LastPass
Superb password security with versions for all web browsers and devices
Dashlane is LastPass's most serious rival, and like LastPass it's absolutely superb with one-click password generation, excellent security, exceptional ease of use and ability to store notes for future reference.
In addition to the Windows desktop password manager, there are browser plugins and mobile versions, and as with LastPass there's a premium edition of Dashlane that adds unlimited syncing and sharing.
The premium edition of Dashlane costs US$39.99 (about £30, AU$50) per year, but the free version provides 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.
Download here: Dashlane
An excellent desktop password manager with free mobile apps and support for an unlimited number of logins
RoboForm claims to be the world's best password manager, and it's certainly up there with the top contenders. Following a recent update, there's no longer a limit on the number of logins that can be stored in the free version. It also offers multi-platform support, application logins, and the ability to receive emergency access.
The premium version of RoboForm adds the ability to sync across devices, cloud backup and the ability to grant emergency access yourself. If you decide to upgrade, a license costs US$19.95, £15.95 (about AU$25) for one year, US$49.95, £39.95 (about AU$65) for three years, or US$74.95, £59.95 (about AU$95) for five years. There are also family subscriptions available for up to five users.
RoboForm doesn't have quite the same features lists as Dashlane or LastPass, but it's a very good tool nonetheless and the free mobile apps are excellent. Its password generator is particularly strong, enabling you to exclude similar characters and specify which special characters should be used.
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 desktop, laptop and mobile devices.
Download here: RoboForm
An open source password manager with regular updates to maintain security
It isn't the prettiest password manager around, but KeePass Password Safe is both free and open source with strong security, multiple user support and a whole bunch of plugins to expand the app further.
Its secure password generator can produce logins suitable for those annoying sites with very specific requirements, and clearly marks any options that might make the generated password weaker.
The password manager is small enough 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 stacks of customization options to play with.
The fact that KeePass Password Safe is open source means anybody can inspect the code for potential weaknesses, which means that any security issues can be identified and fixed quickly. It's a great little app, if a bit intimidating for absolute beginners.
Download here: KeePass Password Safe
Superb password management from the antivirus experts behind AVG Antivirus
Sticky Password comes from the team behind AVG Antivirus, so you can be confident that security is its top priority.
There are two versions of Sticky Password: free and premium. The latter adds cloud syncing and backup, and costs US$29.99, £19.99 (about AU$40) a year. There's also a lifetime license available for $149.99, £96.99 (about AU$200) – an option not offered by any other premium password manager.
All versions of Sticky Password include a generator that can create secure logins for you while you're registering for a new online account. It's straightforward to use, but doesn't offer as many customization options as the other tools 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 synchronisation options including Wi-Fi syncing with local devices.
Browser extensions are available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Internet Explorer, but not Edge.
Download here: Sticky Password