Password managers are essential in 2023, especially if you have a growing number of online accounts. A password manager will not only keep you safe online, but it will also make creating and storing strong passwords easier. I recently signed up for a password manager and discovered a plethora of options, including built-in password managers found in most web browsers.
Yes, you can manage your login information using the built-in password manager in your web browser. These passwords sync across all of your devices as long as the browser on that platform is supported. But how effective are these built-in password management tools? And, more importantly, is it really safe to give these browsers all of your passwords? So I used one for a few days to see how it works and whether it’s worth using instead of a dedicated password manager. Here’s what I discovered.
Browsers with built-in password managers
In 2023, most modern web browsers will include built-in password managers. It’s usually enabled by default, so your browser will prompt you to save your password every time you enter login information on a specific website. If you choose to save it, your browser will remember your password and store it in the cloud so that it can be used to automatically fill in the credentials the next time you visit the same page. So, if you’ve been saving your passwords, your browser already has a collection of them in the cloud. These are the ones I’ve tried, but they’re available in most browsers.
Google Chrome is unquestionably one of the most popular cross-platform web browsers available. It also includes a password manager that allows you to create and save passwords for your online accounts. It employs AES 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption and personal information, making it just as secure as the other options discussed here. Chrome can tell you whether your password is weak or compromised, in addition to generating and saving them.
For those who own an Apple device, the Safari browser is an excellent choice. It can also generate and autofill passwords for you, and all of your data is saved in the iCloud Keychain as long as you use Apple devices with the same Apple account. It also employs end-to-end 256-bit AES encryption, which means your login credentials are protected by a login key.
The built-in password manager in Firefox allows you to generate and manage all of your credentials. It gained prominence after Firefox dropped support for Firefox Lockwise and made it a built-in feature in Firefox desktop and mobile browsers. It can also notify you of any vulnerable passwords that are saved in your account.
Because the new Edge is built on the same open-source Chromium engine that powers Chrome, it includes a feature-rich password manager for securing your accounts. It also employs AES-256 encryption to increase the security of your passwords and allows you to access them from the settings page. The most notable feature is that Edge allows you to autofill your password in Chrome using the Microsoft Autofill extension, which is quite useful.
As you can see, all of these built-in tools are very similar. They can all generate and save passwords for your online accounts, removing the need for you to manage them manually. For this experiment, I primarily used Chrome and Safari, but your results will be similar regardless of browser.
Pros and cons of using built-in password managers in browsers
If you intend to use the built-in password manager feature in your browser, here are some advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of.
One of the things I like best about using a built-in password manager is that it works right away once you start using the browser. As previously stated, this tool is enabled by default, so your browser will prompt you whether you want to save your passwords. It is very convenient because it simply works without requiring you to download any files or create new accounts. Yes, you will need to log in to your account in your web browser, but you will need to do so anyway to access things like your bookmarks and history.
Pro: Syncs data across devices
As long as you use the same web browser on all of your devices, you can have all of your passwords ready to go. Cross-platform support isn’t limited to browser-based password managers, but it saves you the trouble of downloading and installing a separate app on each of your devices. To save/access the saved passwords, you must sign in to your account, which you will most likely do anyway.
Pro: Free to use
Most dedicated password-management services can do far more than simply manage your passwords. They’re frequently bundled with extra features or extras, such as a secure vault for your important files. Some password managers even include a dark web monitoring feature to see if your passwords have been compromised. It’s always nice to have new things, especially when they’re free, but you’ll appreciate the simplicity of web browser built-in password managers.
These browser-based password managers are only capable of generating, storing, and autofilling passwords in login forms. Some won’t let you import or export your passwords or even change any settings because they’re ready to use the moment you open your browser, whereas dedicated password managers will. I prefer simple, no-frills services that perform as advertised, but this is a personal preference. These browser-based password managers will leave you wanting more features and the ability to customise different settings.
Con: Passwords are limited to browsers only
One obvious limitation of built-in password managers is that your passwords are only valid for browsers. They can only be used to log in to online accounts through the browser where your passwords are saved. This means you won’t be able to use it to access apps installed on the same device. So, if you want to log into your Twitter account using the app, you must copy and paste your password and username.
This is an extra step that can be avoided by using a password manager like Bitwarden, which has dedicated applications to import and fill in passwords for you. It also implies that your login credentials are limited to the browser in which your passwords are saved, which leads me to my next point.
Con: No easy or secure sharing options
Standalone password managers, including free options like Bitwarden or Zoho Vault, make it simple to share your passwords with people you trust. Many of them even have family tiers that provide shared folders to which all members have access. This is something that browsers’ built-in password managers cannot do. Your only option is to manually export or copy them for sharing.