KeePass vs. KeePassX — What’s the Difference? (UPDATED 2020)

Apart from the big “X” in the name, what are the major differences between these two popular password managers?

KeePass is an open-source, free password manager with a loyal following in the tech community. KeePassX is one of over 30 variations of KeePass that have been based off of the original KeePass application.

Although the original KeePass has significant flaws, it has earned a good security reputation and is constantly improving with regular security patches and updates.

Third-party KeePass clones, like KeePassX, always provide some features that KeePass lacks. But they often get abandoned by their developers. This lack of updates makes some KeePass clones — including KeePassX — potentially unsafe.

KeePass vs. KeePassX – Comparison of Features

Features KeePass KeePassX
Securely stores passwords and other user data Y Y
Stores data locally (offline) for extra security Y Y
Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android Y Y
Password generator Y Y
Password strength-tester Y Y
Import and export passwords in various file formats Y Y
Autotype forms Y Y (experimental)
Free Y Y
Plugins available to expand usability Y N

The main difference between KeePass and KeePassX is that KeePassX is designed to run on Mac and Linux. KeePass used to be Windows-only, but it now also runs on Mac and Linux.

So does this make KeePassX obsolete? Not quite. There’s a difference in how these two applications operate.

  • KeePass uses the “Mono” framework. Mono allows Windows apps to run on Mac and Linux. As a result, some users find that KeePass feels “alien” when running on these platforms — it’s like a Windows app is being forced to run in the wrong environment.
  • KeePassX uses the “Qt” software toolkit. Qt allows developers to create new user-interfaces for apps without changing the underlying code, so they can run “natively” across different platforms. This means that KeePassX looks and behaves like other Mac and Linux apps.

So even though some people prefer the “look and feel” of KeePassX on Mac and Linux, KeePass has some serious advantages over KeePassX.

What Are the Pros and Cons of KeePass?

KeePass Pros:

✔ It can be customized and upgradedvia third-party plug-ins which add greater functionality to the app.

✔It stores passwords on your device — this is arguably more secure than storing them on a password manager’s cloud (if you can keep your device safe).

✔ Every feature is available for free.

KeePass Cons:

✘ It’s difficult to use.

✘ There’s no tech support.

✘ There’s no official KeePass for Android or KeePass for iPhone. Some third-party versions exist, but these might not be trustworthy.

What Are the Pros and Cons of KeePass?

The basic KeePass application is more of a “password vault” than a full-fledged password manager. It offers few features beyond generating strong passwords, storing them securely, and keeping them organized.

But you can add more functions using plug-ins. If you have the technical skills to upgrade KeePass with plug-ins, it can become a very flexible application. For example, certain plug-ins enable you to use KeePass directly in your browser, add an extra layer of sign-in security, and import passwords from other applications.

Here’s how to install a KeePass plug-in:

  1. Find a link to your desired plug-in on the KeePass website.
  2. Download a zip file containing the plug-in from GitHub.
  3. Unzip the files into the KeePass plug-ins folder.

For many people, this process is complex, and there’s no tech support team available to help. Although it may be difficult to use, some people trust KeePass more than any other password manager.

That’s because most password managers store your passwords on their company’s cloud, but KeePass stores your passwords “locally” on your own computer. Local storage can be a safer option because you’re not trusting third-party cloud providers to keep your passwords safe.

What Are the Pros and Cons of KeePass?

However, for local storage to be safe, you have to keep your device secure. If you don’t have safety precautions in place — such as a good antivirus — KeePass will leave you vulnerable to cybercrime.

Try KeePass Now

What Are the Pros and Cons of KeePassX?

KeePassX Pros:

✔It runs “natively” on Mac and Linux.This means the UI looks and feels like an app designed for those platforms, rather than a Windows app that’s been transferred over.

✔ Like KeePass, it can store passwords locally on your computer.

✔ It’s free.

KeePass X Cons:

✘ It doesn’t support plugins.

✘It can’t integrate with browsers— you have to copy and paste your passwords into password fields manually.

✘ There have been no updates since early 2016. KeePassX appears to have been forgotten about.

✘ All of the other cons associated with KeePass.

What Are the Pros and Cons of KeePassX?

Unlike KeePass, you can’t upgrade KeePassX with plug-ins. This means KeePassX can’t perform some key functions, like automatically backing up your passwords or integrating with your browser.

The worst thing about KeePassX is its lack of updates. Password managers need to be updated regularly in order to stay one step ahead of hackers. This lack of updates could leave your passwords vulnerable — especially if you haven’t installed reliable antivirus software.

What Are the Pros and Cons of KeePassX?

But don’t worry! There’s a solution. If you want the smooth-running, cross-platform experience of KeePassX without the security concerns, check out KeePassXC.

KeePassXC is a “community fork” of KeePassX. A community of developers liked using KeePassX so much that they developed KeePassXC to keep it going. KeePassXC gets regular updates, and it can even integrate with Chrome and Firefox.

And, of course, KeePassXC is free.

Try KeePassXC Now

The Bottom Line on KeePass and KeePassX

Password manager software has come a long way in recent years. While they still have loyal followers, open-source password managers like KeePass and KeePassX have been left behind.

If you’re looking for a way to store a list of passwords on your computer, KeePass is a great solution. But unless you have the technical skills to customize it, KeePass is a very basic application. It’s pretty hard to use, and there’s no tech support team to help.

As for KeePassX — it’s even more limited, and it’s seriously out-of-date. For the average person seeking a password manager, there’s no reason to choose KeePassX. But if you want the KeePass experience on Mac or Linux, without the pitfalls and limitations of KeePassX, take a look at KeePassXC.

These applications are all free. But don’t use them simply to save money. You need to know what you’re doing or else you’re putting your security at risk. If you’re unsure about using open-source platforms to store your passwords and you’re looking for a reliable password manager, try the free version of LastPass instead. And if you don’t mind spending a couple of bucks to keep your passwords safe, use Dashlane.

About the Author

Scott Jackson
Scott Jackson
Internet security researcher

About the Author

Scott Jackson is an internet security researcher who has spent the last two decades working as an IT technician, programmer, and cybersecurity consultant with more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies. He spends his time researching hacking trends and helping make sure that people stay safe on the internet.
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