I won't shut up about. They're among the most helpful (and important) tools a person can use, yet I know far too many people who just keep writing down, forgetting and resetting the same few easily hacked credentials.
If that's you, it's time to get with the program -- or in this case the app. Concerned about cost? Don't be: Many great password managers have very capable free versions. But those versions -- including those in-- are limited in one key way: They keep your passwords confined to a single device.
My top pick doesn't have that limitation; it synchronizes your passwords with all your devices. It's called Bitwarden.
Wondering what happened to LastPass, which used to share space in this story (and is still featured in the accompanying video)? As of March 16, 2021, the free version will no longer offer this essential synchronization feature. To keep it, you'd have to upgrade to LastPass Premium or LastPass Families ($36 and $48 annually, respectively). If you're already using LastPass Free, you'll have to decide whether to start paying or make the switch to Bitwarden.
What is a password manager, really?
Simple: It's an encrypted database of all your passwords. Instead of trying to remember that same handful of (probably not very secure) passwords you use everywhere you go online, you just have to remember one: The one that unlocks Bitwarden.
Why choose one of these over the likes of 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper, Password Vault, Sticky Password and other products, all of which are perfectly good? As noted above, only the free version of Bitwarden supports password synchronization. That means you can access your data on your phone, tablet and PC -- a benefit that's absolutely essential if you use more than one device.
Beyond that, they offer common helpers like strong-password generation, automatic form-filling, encrypted credit card storage (for easier online shopping), a digital vault and so on.
Useful features like those help explain why I prefer a proper password manager to the rudimentary capabilities built into Android, iOS and your web browser. Indeed, once you get accustomed to having such tools at your disposal, you'll wonder how you managed so long without them.
Make no mistake, there's a learning curve to Bitwarden -- and any password manager, really. It might take you a few weeks to really get accustomed to using the app and banishing your old password habits.
But any such hassles are greatly overshadowed by the overall convenience. Your goal as an internet citizen should be to use a different, robust password for each app, site and service, and a password manager is the only practical way to make that happen. You should be using one. Bitwarden is, to my thinking, the best free option out there.
Other free password management options
Should you bother with the premium version? Bitwarden charges just $10 annually for it, a price that nets you 1GB of encrypted cloud storage and password health reports. There's also a family option ($40 a year) that gives you premium features for up to six users and adds unlimited sharing.
I'd say most of these features are superfluous for most users, though obviously it's up to you to decide.
For the record,is another tool that supports password-syncing in its free version. I don't like it as much, but it's worth a look.
If you're wondering, I'm now using Bitwarden full-time. Previously I was a Dashlane user, but grew frustrated by its bloat and high price. Bitwarden has proven a solid product, one I have no qualms about recommending.
What's your preferred password-management method these days? And if you refuse to use one of these tools, I'd like to know why! 😜
CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on tech products and much more. For the latest deals and updates, follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and check out our CNET Coupons page for the latest promo codes from Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page.