It’s not easy being safe in this hack-happy world. Passwords are an inconvenient fact of life. One of the Prime Directives of online security is that you should have a different password for every site, or at least for those with sensitive information (your email account tops that list by the way.) It’s enough to make you want to go back to pencil and paper. Almost.

Puzzle pieces

You can reach for medication to make the pain go away, but I’d suggest getting a password manager and letting it do the heavy lifting for you instead. A password manager stores your passwords securely, so you can forget them. You only have to remember one password, the master password, to open the door to all the other information you have tucked away in the manager. It’s like a key box where you lock up all the keys until you need one. You only carry one master key to the key box instead of some huge jangling key ring on a belt. No one wants to be that guy.

Of course, the key to that key box is pretty important, as is your master password. You want your master password to be really secure and unique. And you might want to write it down and put it somewhere safe. Put it in your will if your heirs will need access. If you forget it, you are out of luck, you’ll never get your password manager to divulge anything again.

A password manager makes your online life easier, not just safer
One of the biggest advantages to using a password manager is that you can configure it to sign you in automatically on your secure desktop. Add your password app’s browser extension to your favorite browser and sign in once. Then when you go to a site that matches an entry in your manager, it’ll sign you in or fill in the user name and password for you (most of the time anyway.) Some of this functionality is becoming available on mobile devices now too.

Another of my favorite time-and-aggravation saving reasons for using a password manager is the form fill profile feature. Set up a profile for personal, one for work, one for each credit card and when you encounter one of those long online forms, a click or two and it’ll take all the info from your profile, name, address, phone, credit card info, etc., and fill the form out for you. Slick.

Password managers are also good for storing other secure data, like software activation codes, insurance account information, vehicle VINs. Anything you want. They’ll even generate really secure passwords for you.

My app
I use LastPass, and pay the $12 a year for the premium version that automatically syncs my account between the devices I use. I know there are some other good ones out there, I just happen to have LastPass and have used it for a long time. Some of the other highly rated apps include KeePass, PasswordBox, Dashlane, and 1Password.

In a few years, passwords might just be less useful as biometric and wearable keys become more widely available. In the meantime, use an app. Leave a comment if you have a favorite I missed.

Want to learn more about passwords? Check out Passwords: a love-hate relationship and Easy to remember, hard to crack for more info.