KeePass Password Manager Review— How Does It Compare?

KeePass isn’t the most accessible password manager out there, but it has a loyal following. Originally developed for Windows, it is available for Mac, but has a feel to it that some users may find outdated. And while it’s secure, it’s definitely not as up to date on a lot of common password manager features. But it is free, so if you’re willing to acquaint yourself with this slightly less intuitive password manager, it may be worth your while.

 

How To Install

If you operate on Windows, there is a link in the “downloads” tab of the KeePass website that allows you to download KeePass directly. If you have a Mac, scroll down on the downloads page. There are different download options for different devices. Click on the link for a Mac-compatible version of KeePass, which will bring you to another webpage. From there, you can download the desktop application. You may have to change your security preferences in order to open it, since it is not from the Mac App Store or an identified developer.

How It Works

KeePass saves passwords in what they call “databases,” which you create yourself. To create a new database, go to the toolbar at the top of the screen, making sure it’s on the KeePass application, and click new database. You will then be prompted to create a master password for that database. A master password should be unique and long, as it will be protecting all of your saved passwords. The database will automatically save under the label “root,” but you can change the title by double clicking it and clicking edit group. You can then label it as whatever you want.

To add a login to your database, you can click on the key with the green arrow, or go to entries at the toolbar, and click add new entry. You will then be able to add the login information for whatever account information you want to add. To edit an entry, you can click on the key with the blue pen while it is selected, or just double click it.

 

Features

Open-Source

KeePass is an open-source application, meaning that its source code is available to be modified and tested by the user. Since anyone can make modifications, problems with the software can be identified more frequently and fixed more quickly, allowing the program to run more smoothly and with more consistency. And if you happen to write code, you could even modify the software to tailor it to your specific needs.

Interface

The KeePass interface is definitely not as sleek or modern-looking as other password managers. The icons in the application look fairly outdated, and they don’t offer any sort of tutorial when you first download the application, so navigating can be a little difficult in the beginning. But once you create a database and enter a few logins, it’s a pretty basic list layout of all your saved logins, and you can subdivide into as many folders as you want. It’s not the most intuitive of interfaces, but once you figure out where everything is and what all the icons are, it’s easy to use.

 

Browser Extension

KeePass offers a browser extension compatible with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, but does not automatically download the extension when you download the app. To download the extension, go to the “plugins/ext” section of the website and look for the browser you want under “Integration and Transfer.” Having the extension will allow you to use the KeePass autofill function. Passwords saved in any of your KeePass databases will be automatically filled in when you visit that website.

Password Generator

Like any good password manager, KeePass has a password generator function. When you enter the password field, you have the option of generating a strong, unique password. The password is also customizable, so you can change the length and the type of characters. It also has an added security option of excluding look-alike characters and including characters from every group. You can also generate a password at the actual login section of whichever website you’re visiting.

Application Passwords

KeePass allows you to store passwords for desktop applications as well as websites, which is a rare feature. Basically, it can fill in a password wherever a password field appears.

Shared Databases

KeePass does offer the option to share databases among multiple users. A shared database can be stored on a shared network drive, and subsequently opened in either read-only mode, in which that user cannot edit any information, or normal mode. If the user chooses to open it in normal mode, then they become the only person able to edit at that time, thus taking “ownership” of that file. If you are editing the file, you can either synchronize or overwrite the original when you’re finished.

Import/Export

KeePass makes it easy to export and import data from other applications, including many other popular password managers, such as Dashlane, LastPass, and 1Password.   

Security

KeePass does not offer a security test, a pretty common feature among password managers that analyzes the strength of all of your saved passwords and identifies which are weak, duplicates, compromised, etc. But since KeePass is open-source, some could argue that it is actually more secure than other password managers, since its source code is frequently being tested, modified, and improved.

KeePass also offers some other helpful security features. For example, you can “lock” the workspace, meaning that KeePass will close the database file, meaning you’ll need your master password to get back in. You can also enable automatic lock settings, like locking after a predetermined period of inactivity. And if the computer crashes while the database is locked, the database will remain unharmed. Additionally, whenever KeePass starts, it runs a self-test to make sure all of the encryption algorithms work. If one of them doesn’t, a security exception dialog will appear.

KeePass also gives you the option to create a key file, which is an added file that will be needed to unlock your database in addition to the master password. This is a helpful second line of defense in the unlikely event that a hacker gets into your database.

Mobile App

KeePass offers a pretty seamless mobile app for the Android and iOS that features a sleek interface. Using it is easy, but unfortunately you have to manually enter in new databases, as they will not sync across devices unless you use an outside service (such as Dropbox or Google Drive).

 

Pricing

  • KeePass is completely free.

Who It Might Be Good For

  • Users looking for a reliable, free password manager
  • Users who want an open-source password manager
  • Users who want a password manager with a local file system

Who It Might Not Be Good For

  • Users using a password manager for the first time
  • Users who want a security test feature
  • Users who want family or business editions

Conclusion

Overall, KeePass is an old-school sort of password manager, so if you’re keen on keeping up with the latest technology, there are definitely other password managers that have more to offer in terms of a more modern-looking interface and more advanced features. But if you’re a coder who’s drawn to the open-source software, it’s worth checking out.

Gwynn Ballard

Gwynn Ballard

Gwynn Ballard is a writer based in New York City. In addition to writing for Security Baron, she writes and performs comedy all around New York and on the internet. She's also a playwright, and has had her work presented at places such as Classic Stage, Manhattan Repertory Theater, and Playwrights Horizons Theater School.

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