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How to save and sync your passwords for free

One of the top-rated password managers now includes cross-platform syncing in its free offering. Here's how to get started.

Time for some tough love: If you're not using a password manager, you're crazy. These tools not only help you build a more secure database of passwords -- a different one for every site, of course -- but also save you considerable time when it comes to actually using those passwords.

OK, I hear you: There's the expense to consider. Although most of the major password managers offer a free option, you don't get what is arguably the most important option -- password syncing -- unless you pony up for a premium subscription. And that can run as much as $40 annually.

Not anymore. Lastpass, already a popular option thanks to its affordable $1/month Premium plan, now offers syncing as part of its free service. That means you can access your passwords on mobile, desktop and Web without spending a dime.

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Password syncing is now free in Lastpass, making it too good a deal to pass up.

Lastpass

What makes that so important? You may think it's just about convenience, but think about it: Once your passwords are accessible anywhere and everywhere, and there's almost zero hassle in actually using them (thanks, autofill!), you can stop relying on one or two short, easily remembered, easily cracked passwords. Or trying --and failing -- to juggle lots of them.

I'll go so far as to say that Lastpass is now the single best free password-management option you can get. Truthfully, the syncing is just icing on the cake, because this was already a great tool.

Here's a quick rundown on how to get started with Lastpass, followed by some tips on getting the most from the service:

Step 1: The easiest way to get started is on your phone or tablet: Just download the Lastpass app from the app store, then follow the instructions to create a new account.

Step 2: Remember that the password you use for Lastpass is your master password, the one you'll need to remember in order to access all other passwords. Thus, if you're bad at remembering these things, write it down somewhere. And for heaven's sake, don't make it one of these easy-to-guess, woefully common choices.

Step 3: Next, head to your desktop or laptop and use the universal Windows installer to add Lastpass to your browsers. (You can find it there for Mac and Linux as well.) This will also give you the option of importing any existing passwords from your browser(s), a huge time-saver. Likewise, if you're already using another password manager, you can import from there as well.

Step 4: Return to your mobile app and check your password vault; you should see all the passwords that were imported. You can also head to Lastpass.com, click Log In and see your vault that way -- a handy option if you ever need access to your passwords from a device or computer that's not your own.

And that's pretty much it! Once you start using this full-time, you'll wonder how (and why) you ever got along without it.

In the meantime, here are some key ways to get the most out of Lastpass:

  • If you're an iOS user, tap the Tools icon and then choose Lastpass extension. That will add the password manager to Chrome and/or Safari on your mobile device, thus allowing instant-login in those mobile browsers.
  • Android users should head to Settings > Accessibility and then enable Lastpass -- which will allow the app to autofill in other Android apps.
  • Set up form fills -- great for automatically inserting your name, address and other info in online forms -- on your computer. A real keyboard is much quicker than the one on your phone or tablet.
  • Take the Security Challenge on your computer or mobile device; it'll generate a score based on your existing passwords and help you fix old, compromised, reused and/or weak ones.