The Big Question: what's the best password manager?

Don't leave your accounts at the mercy of your memory – keep your passwords uncrackable with one of these services...

Passwords are just an annoying fact of modern life, with pretty much every subscription service, online retailer, app and social network requiring its own individual password.

If you're using the same password for all your logins, you're doing it wrong - all it takes is to have your details nabbed once and everything becomes vulnerable. The alternative - keeping scores of vastly varying passwords stored in your brain - isn't really practical, unless you've got a photographic memory.

The solution, of course, is a password manager - and we've been tried the best of them to find out which one you should pick. But first, let's take you lovely password astronauts through your pre-launch briefing...

The Basics

1. Why use a password manager?

News flash: your passwords aren’t good enough. If you use the same passwords between logins you only have yourself to blame when you get hacked, or have your identity nicked. A password manager app lets you use serious, hardcore passwords without needing Rainman-style memory. It remembers all your complex passwords so you don’t need to. These apps are like password butlers, who keep all your sensitive logins behind a single password-protected wall. It’s a security fix that needs no effort.

2. How do they work?

Password manager apps are like tiny little bank vaults that contain all your important logins. You unlock their wares with a single ‘parent’ login, and that’s the only password you need to remember, ever again. Some apps are keep it simple, just letting you copy-paste passwords. However, others plug directly into apps to do the login bits for you. The less actual interaction you have to have with these passwords, the crazier you can make them. How about a 25-character one packed with squiggly symbols?

3. Which platforms do they work on?

Most big-name password managers will work on your phone, your tablet and your laptop. All four we’ve looked at support Windows 10, Mac OS X, Android and iOS. The one slightly sticky point is Windows 10 for phones and tablets: LastPass and Keeper work; the others are in the pipeline. Also, bear in mind you’ll need to sign up for the paid version of these apps to use them between devices. Free versions are limited to one device, probably your phone.