How We Test Password Managers

Password managers store and auto-fill passwords so users don’t have to remember or manually enter all of their login credentials every time they’re logging into an online account. Our reviewers conduct a series of tests in order to find out the pros and cons of each password manager.
Here’s how we test password managers:

Category Breakdown
  • 5% - Purchase & Download
  • 10% - Installation & Setup
  • 20% - Security & Encryption
  • 20% - Core Features
  • 15% - Extra Features
  • 10% - Multi-User Plans & Password Sharing
  • 10% - Pricing
  • 10% - Customer Support & Refunds
1. Purchase & Download

1. Purchase & Download — 5%

We purchase the most comprehensive plan offered by each password manager and download it onto our system.

We assess the range of payment options offered, the difficulty of the overall payment process, and whether or not purchasing the product is in any way challenging or off-putting (like hidden costs or upsells).

We then download the password manager installation file onto our system. We look at the size of each download file and see how much storage space is required.

Based on our experience when purchasing and downloading each product, we give a score out of 10. This score makes up 5% of the final score.

2. Installation & Setup

2. Installation & Setup — 10%

After downloading, we install the password manager onto a variety of systems using Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.

Most password managers also come with a browser extension, so we install the password manager on as many web browsers as possible to fully assess its functionality.

Once the password manager has been installed, we then proceed to set up the program. First, we log into the password manager app or browser extension using our previously created login credentials. We always look closely at the master password creation process to assess whether or not each program guarantees that users are making a strong master password.

Based on our experience with the installation and setup of each product, we give a score out of 10. This score makes up 10% of the final score.

3. Security & Encryption

3. Security & Encryption — 20%

A proper password manager should provide advanced security options to safely store a user’s passwords, including high-level encryption.

There are a range of things we look for when assessing each password manager’s security, including:
  • Encryptions options — we find what level of encryption each password manager uses (256-bit AES is the standard).
  • Zero-knowledge architecture — we ensure each password manager is designed in such a way that the developers have absolutely no access to a user’s stored data.
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA)/multi-factor authentication (MFA) — we test and assess all of the 2FA/MFA options offered.
  • Account recovery options — we look at the range of account recovery options that enable users to gain access to their data if they lose their master password.

Low scores are given to password managers that don’t include strong encryption standards, aren’t built using zero-knowledge architecture, don’t include a range of 2FA/MFA options, and/or don’t have any account recovery options.

Based on our assessment of each product’s security features and protocols, we give a score out of 10. This score makes up 20% of the final score.

4. Core Features

4. Core Features — 20%

Each password manager’s core features are assessed closely to ensure they function as expected.

The core features that we test include:
  • Password storage — how passwords are stored and organized.
  • Auto-fill & auto-save — how well each password manager automatically fills login fields and how well it captures newly entered logins.
  • Password generating — how easy it is to generate new passwords and how strong and versatile the passwords are.
  • Password sharing — how secure and intuitive the password sharing feature is and whether or not there’s a limit on the amount of passwords that can be shared.

Based on our assessment of each product’s core functionalities, we give a score out of 10. This score makes up 20% of the final score.

5. Extra Features

5. Extra Features — 15%

Many top-rated password managers come with extra features that either offer users additional security or improve productivity.

As the features offered by each brand can differ, we first assess the number of features offered and then decide whether or not each feature works as advertised.

Some of the features that we test include:
  • Dark web monitoring — scans dark web databases to see if a user’s personal details have been leaked on the dark web.
  • Security reports — audits the overall strength of a user’s password database and lets the user know how they can strengthen their passwords.
  • Encrypted file storage — stores large quantities of user files in the company’s encrypted cloud servers.
  • Automatic password changer — allows for changing passwords on certain sites with a single click in the password manager app.
  • Virtual private network (VPN) — helps a user change their IP address and provide an added layer of security to their browsing.

If each additional feature works as advertised, we compare and contrast the feature with other password managers and standalone products that offer the same functionality. We then look at whether or not the extra feature comes at an added cost and determine if the additional feature is worth the added cost.

Based on our experience with each product’s extra features, we give a score out of 10. This score makes up 15% of the final score.

6. Multi-User Plans & Password Sharing

6. Multi-User Plans & Password Sharing — 10%

We test each password manager’s ability to handle multiple users and facilitate password sharing within a team or family. We also assess the options for adding and removing users, the ease of sharing passwords and logins, and the level of control offered to the administrator or owner of the account.

Our team will create an account on the password manager we’re testing, assess the overall experience when using family management dashboards, and check for any limitations or additional costs for adding multiple users. We’ll also check if the product offers discounts on its family plans.

Finally, we evaluate the security of the password sharing process, including how passwords are encrypted, how they’re shared, and whether you can choose the access level granted to each user. We also examine any additional security features provided with multi-user accounts.

Based on each product’s multi-user plans and password sharing capabilities, we give a score out of 10. This makes up 10% of the final score for each password manager.

7. Pricing

7. Pricing — 10%

Our reviewers assess the cost of each password manager.

We look at the range of packages or subscriptions offered by each company, break down what features come with each package, and determine if each package is worth its price.

Each password manager package is compared to similar packages offered by other password managers to see if the product is low-cost or expensive compared to the competition.

As well as looking at the original price of each package, we look at the available discounts and deals that each company advertises. If available, we’ll let the user know if the discounted price is a good buy or not.

Based on the product’s pricing, we give each password manager a score out of 10. This score makes up 10% of the final score.

8. Customer Support & Refunds

8. Customer Support & Refunds — 10%

We look at the customer support options available to users — the more options, the better.

We give good scores to companies that offer a wide range of support options, like email, live chat, phone, forums, and social media.

Our experts contact each password manager’s support team numerous times with various questions and issues to assess the speed and overall quality of each response.

Finally, we see if each company offers a refund policy or money-back guarantee. We assess the entire refund process by requesting a refund within the correct time frame, judging how easy or difficult it is to get our refund request processed, and how long it takes for the money to arrive back in our account.

Based on how fast each support team responds to our requests and how useful the response is in helping us solve an issue, we give each company a score out of 10. This score makes up 10% of the final score.

Final Scores for Password Managers

Our reviewers calculate a final score for each password manager based on the score of each test category.

Each test category has a varying influence on the final score, so we divide each test score by the following percentages:

Purchase & Download: 5%
Extra Features: 15%
Installation and Setup: 10%
Multi-User Plans & Password Sharing: 10%
Security & Encryption: 20%
Pricing: 10%
Core Features: 20%
Customer Support & Refunds: 10%

We then add up the figures to reach a final score for each password manager, which is shown at the top of each review. Products with an overall score above 8/10 are generally considered to be a great choice for most users. Products scoring around 7/10 are generally pretty good, though there are likely better options elsewhere. Scores around 6/10 and below indicate that our reviewers ran into many issues, and the product probably isn’t the best for most users in its current form.