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Apple gives PC owners a full-fledged password manager. Here's how to use it

The iCloud for Windows app has been updated with a new feature that gives iPhone users a worthwhile password tool.

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iCloud for Windows just received a pretty big update that adds password support. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Owning an iPhone and a Windows PC and accessing the same pool of information just got a whole lot easier. That goes for your iCloud Drive files, email, photos and the passwords stored in your iCloud Keychain. Apple recently updated the iCloud for Windows app, adding more features to the Passwords section of the app. 

More specifically, you can now access your iCloud stored passwords if you use the Microsoft Edge browser through a new extension, and there's a dedicated iCloud Passwords app for Windows that lets you create and edit passwords directly on your PC. Apple still hasn't made iMessage available outside of its own hardware, but there are alternative services you can use.

The addition of iCloud passwords on a Windows PC is a welcome update and one that I hope Apple users take advantage of. Using the extension and app means you'll be able to log into websites without having to hand-type the complex passwords that iCloud creates for you, and now you can create new passwords with just a few clicks of the mouse

If the T-Mobile hack taught us anything, it's that it's our job to protect our personal information, not the companies we've given it to. If you're not using some sort of password manager, you really should start. Below I'll walk you through how to set up the new Passwords tool in iCloud for Windows.

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What you'll need to use the new iCloud password feature

  • Two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID.

If you already have the iCloud for Windows app installed on your PC, open the Microsoft Store app, click the menu button with three dots next to your profile icon in the top-right corner of the app, select Downloads and updates > Get Updates and check for any pending app updates to make sure you're using the latest version of the iCloud for Windows app. While you're there, you may as well install any pending app updates. 

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The most recent version of iCloud for Windows has more features to help you keep your online accounts secure across Windows and Apple devices. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Set up Passwords in iCloud for Windows 

Open the iCloud for Windows app, and look for the Passwords option at the bottom of the window. Check the box to turn on the feature, and then click on the button to install the extension for either Chrome or Edge. 

You may be asked to sign in to your iCloud account again to authorize access to your passwords after checking the box, and the first time you open the extension you'll be asked to enter a six-digit code that will show up at the bottom of your screen. 

As you start browsing the web and visit sites you have a password saved in iCloud for, the icon for the iCloud Passwords extension will turn from a grayish color to blue with a key inside it. There are other icons that can show up as well, here's a chart of what each icon means: 

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You can quickly and easily see if you have a password saved for each site. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

If you sign up for a new account, the extension will ask if you want to save the credentials to your iCloud account. The same goes for when you change a password for an existing account; the extension will offer to save it to your iCloud account automatically. 

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Apple has given Windows users a full-on password manager. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use the new iCloud Passwords app for Windows

It's not at all apparent after you update the iCloud for Windows app that it has installed another app called iCloud Passwords. In fact, it took me a few minutes of digging around and an Apple Support page before I discovered the app myself. The easiest way to get to is to open the start menu and search for iCloud Passwords

You'll be asked to authorize the app with your Windows 10 user account, and once that's done, you'll see a list of all of the accounts and their respective passwords currently stored in your iCloud Passwords. Search or scroll through the list to edit or delete an entry, or add an entirely new one by clicking on the Add Password button next to the search field. 

I can't emphasize this enough: use a password manager. You don't have to pay for it. Apple and Google both offer free tools for their respective platforms, and Bitwarden is another free option. You can read more about our top picks for password managers if you're not sold on iCloud. Want more info on the iCloud for Windows app? We got you. How about a roundup of hidden features in iOS 14? We've got that, too.