Table of Contents
Try Bitwarden risk-free!
Impenetrable password security doesn’t have to be costly. It can even be had for less than $1/month. Give Bitwarden’s FREE version a test run now.
Bitwarden Review Rapid Rundown
Bitwarden is known for its free, open source password manager. The free version is already awesome. But if you want more advanced features, Bitwarden Premium also delivers at a very low cost. You can get it for less than a dollar! That already includes advanced 2-factor authentication, Emergency Access, security reports, and more.
Being an open source password manager, Bitwarden appeals to tech-savvy users. But at the same time, it can cater to regular users as well. People with coding background can scrutinize Bitwarden’s code if they want. But if you’re just looking for a secure and free password manager, it can meet that need too!
My biggest complaint is the lack of a live chat support. If you need help in a pinch, I’m afraid you can’t get it here. Bitwarden is constantly striving to improve their support response times. But it’s not the same as live chat. If this is a deal breaker for you, check out NordPass and Dashlane.
- Vault Health Report: Spots weak and reused passwords in your password vault. Warns you if any are found.
- Emergency Access: Ensures your secrets aren't lost forever. Grants a person you trust access to your vault if something bad happens.
- Secure Notes: Allows you to jot down other secrets. You can enter software license keys, bank details, passport info, and so on.
- Encrypted file storage: Enables you to add file attachments to your vault items. For instance, you can add an image of your passport info secure note.
The Full Review
Let’s now dive deeper into this Bitwarden review. Let's have a look at its pricing, its security features, its other capabilities, and its ease of use. I'll be providing inputs based on first-hand experience with this password management tool. Also, every-now-and-then, I'll be comparing it with its closest competitors in the space. I consider Bitwarden one of the best, so I'll be focusing on competitors at that level. Let's get started!
|Quick Bitwarden Review|
|Overall rank||4 out of 7|
|Starting Price||$0.83 per month when billed annually|
|Password storage limit||Unlimited|
|Document storage limit for individuals||1GB per user|
Pros and Cons
Before we proceed, here's a snapshot of some pros and cons of using Bitwarden.
Of all my top recommended password managers, Bitwarden is hands down the cheapest. So how much does Bitwarden cost? Bitwarden Premium costs less than a dollar per user per month. It’s actually more than $1.5 less than the next cheap-but-good password manager—NordPass. Other password managers in the same category cost at least 3x more. For example, 1Password Individual costs $2.99 and Dashlane Premium costs $3.33.
To be fair, Bitwarden's password manager is only substantially cheaper in Premium. That's the plan for personal accounts. Once you go for higher plans, its price becomes comparable to others.
You can check out the different Bitwarden plans below. That will give you an idea how much each plan costs and what you get for that price. For a comparison between Bitwarden and other password managers, check out the FAQ.
|Monthly cost if billed annually||$0||$0.8333 / User||$3.33 / Family |
(up to 6 members)
|$3 / User||$5 / User|
|Credit/Debit card storage andauto-fill|
|Email, forum, and socmed support|
|Password sharing through Collections|
(with 1 other user)
(with 1 other user)
(with 1 other user)
|Encrypted file storage|
(1GB personal + 1 GB organizational)
(1GB personal + 1 GB organizational)
(1GB personal + 1 GB organizational)
|Vault Health Report|
|Admin-assisted account recovery|
|Free Families Plan|
Bitwarden's free version is the king of free password managers. I’ll explain why later. We also know that its paid password manager for individuals is much cheaper than others. But is it really as capable as other premium password managers? Can it match their advanced features? You'll find out in the succeeding sections. Let’s start by talking about its security features.
Bitwarden Security and Privacy
I'll say it straightaway. Bitwarden's security features are at par with what the best password managers offer. If there are ever downsides of using Bitwarden, they have nothing to do with security. Bitwarden is a secure and reliable password manager, period.
Bitwarden’s open source model contributes a lot to its security. An open source software is one that shares its code to the public. This allows other people to audit, test, and verify the security of that code. This level of transparency reduces the risk of backdoors or exploitable code.
Moreover, many security features in other top password managers are also in Bitwarden. Some are even in the free version. Let's talk about those security features now.
Every good password manager employs a master password as a standard security practice. Bitwarden does that too. This password allows you to get rid of the need to memorize many passwords. Instead, you just need to remember one. This practice greatly simplifies password security and makes it convenient for ordinary users.
Bitwarden lets you create a master password when you sign up for a Bitwarden account. That then serves as the key and main line of defense to your Bitwarden vault. As long as you keep it strong and secret, your vault can be unbreakable. But, if that password falls into the wrong hands, your vault can crack open faster than an egg.
Your master password must be hard to guess. If bad people can simply guess it, they'll find it easy to break into your vault. Your password must be long and complex. If you want to know how to create a strong master password, check out the FAQ below.
Your master password must not only be safe but also retrievable. If even you can't remember what it was or where you placed it, there's no way you can access your vault. Your passwords can be lost forever. Even the folks at Bitwarden can't help you retrieve it or reset it. This is mainly due to a principle known as Zero Knowledge. Let's talk about that next.
Like most secure password managers, Bitwarden adheres to a principle called Zero Knowledge. In this principle, the security provider doesn’t know the keys to your secrets. The keys or key I’m referring to is your master password. Indeed, your passwords and other data are kept in Bitwarden’s servers. But they’re encrypted, and the only thing that can decrypt them is your master password. That password is exclusively in your possession.
Zero Knowledge amounts to very strong security. Since the people at Bitwarden don’t know your master password, they can’t access your vault. If malicious individuals happen to infiltrate Bitwarden’s ranks, your data stays safe.
All your account login details and other secrets are stored in a Bitwarden vault. The vault is the most heavily protected part of any password management tool. Bitwarden does a pretty good job in this regard.
Bitwarden’s password vault is protected by AES 256-bit encryption. This is already military-grade encryption. Other top password managers use this kind of encryption too. 1Password and Dashlane, for instance, use it to protect their vaults as well.
No existing technology can crack AES 256. So it's absolutely safe to store passwords and other secrets in a Bitwarden vault. Just be sure you keep the decryption key safe.
To unlock your vault just login through your Bitwarden apps or browser extensions. After you enter your email address, you'll be asked to submit your master password. As soon as you submit, Bitwarden will decrypt your vault items and display them to you.
When you're new to password management, some of the passwords in your vault may still be easy to crack. You shouldn't leave them that way. You must gradually replace weak passwords with strong ones. Bitwarden has the right tool for that. Let’s talk about it next.
Bitwarden's password generator is the perfect tool for getting rid of weak passwords. It’s designed to create secure passwords with just a few clicks. Here's how it looks like on the Bitwarden browser extension. You can specify a password length as well as the elements you want the password to consist of. For instance, you can include capital letters, numbers, special characters, and so on. If you don't like the password it generated, you may click the regenerate button to generate a new one.
You can use it to generate passwords every time you sign up to a new online account. That way, every new account will always have a strong password. You can also use it when you update an old account. So, eventually, all old accounts will have strong passwords as well. Bitwarden allows you to perform password generation on all its apps. That includes the desktop apps, mobile apps, browser extensions, and web app.
Bitwarden offers a nifty security feature called secure notes. To be clear, secure notes isn’t exclusive to Bitwarden. Other password managers worth checking out also have this feature. Dashlane and NordPass, for example, have their own version of secure notes. But what is it exactly?
Secure notes enable you to jot down important info as you would on post-its or pieces of paper. You can enter software license keys, lock combinations, blood types, ID numbers, and so on. This feature is available on both Bitwarden’s free plan and paid subscriptions. That’s pretty awesome!
I find secure notes particularly handy when I use them on Bitwarden’s mobile apps. If I need to retrieve an important piece of information, I just reach inside my pocket. Saves me a great deal of time and effort. Plus, it’s very safe too!
Vault Health Report
Bitwarden offers a feature that scans your Bitwarden vault for security issues. It looks for weak passwords, exposed passwords, and reused passwords. Weak passwords are those that can be easily guessed. Exposed passwords are those that were involved in a data breach. Reused passwords are those that are used in multiple online accounts. These types of passwords can put your accounts in danger.
When I test a password manager, I always look for password auditing tools like this. In Bitwarden, this tool is called the Vault Health Report. Just like in other password management tools, it's offered in Bitwarden Premium. This tool is one of the reasons why, if you decide to use Bitwarden, I recommend you upgrade to premium.
The report also identifies what it calls Unsecured Websites. Unsecured websites refer to login items in your vault that use HTTP instead of HTTPS. When you use HTTP to login, your username and password will be visible to hackers lurking in the network.
Emergency Access is one of those advanced features I wish every password manager had. Unfortunately, we can't have the good stuff all the time. Dashlane and NordPass have it, but 1Password doesn't. So what exactly does it do? Emergency Access turns over control of your account to someone you trust in case of an emergency. This happens automatically.
To make this work, you need to assign an emergency contact prior to any emergency. You have to be a Bitwarden Premium user to do that. Also, emergency contacts must be Bitwarden users, presumably people you trust. But it doesn't matter if they're premium users or free users. When you assign an emergency contact, you also need to specify a Wait Time. It's a period of time that needs to complete before your emergency contact can take over your account.
You can use this feature to allow, say, a family member access to your passwords if something bad happens to you. For example, if you unfortunately expire or disappear. If any unfortunate event happens, that family member can request emergency access. The Wait Time will then start its countdown. As soon as the countdown ends, your emergency contact automatically gains access.
Emergency Access can also be used for another purpose. You can use it for account recovery if you forget your master password. Your designated emergency contact plays a big role in this. Once the Wait Time passes, that contact will be able to enter a new master password. You can then use that new master password to regain access to your account. Of course your emergency contact must share that new password with you.
Features and Capabilities
The previous section was all about security features. But how good a password manager is Bitwarden in terms of other features and capabilities? Let's talk about those next.
Unlimited password storage
Every modern password manager lets you store unlimited passwords in your vault. Bitwarden does that too. You can even store an unlimited number of passwords with a free account. If you're like me, you've probably amassed an ungodly number of online accounts. So this feature is very helpful. You can add as many account logins as you want without worrying about reaching a limit.
Unlimited Devices in Free
Aside from letting you store unlimited passwords, Bitwarden also supports unlimited devices. Bitwarden offers this capability even in the free version. That's huge! Other password managers will only let you run their tool on one device if you use their free version. You'll have to upgrade to a premium account to use an unlimited number of devices.
In my opinion, that restriction makes other free versions unusable in the real world. Who doesn't use multiple devices these days? Most people use at least one phone and one computer on a daily basis. It doesn't matter if your computer is company-owned. You'll probably still have to login to your online accounts on that computer. Now you know why Bitwarden is king of free password managers.
Folders and Collections
Folders and collections are two ways of organizing vault items. One key difference between the two are the people who manage them. Individuals manage folders. Organizations manage collections. Also, folders are unique to a specific user. Your set of folders can be different from that of another user. Collections, on the other hand, are shared between users in an organization.
I normally use folders to classify vault items by function. For example, I may drop a set of passwords, notes, and so on in a folder named ‘work'. And then I would put another set of vault items in another folder named ‘social media'. This would then make it easy for me to search for logins if I ever forget their names.
Collections are a bit more advanced. In fact, they're only common to users that belong to Families, Teams, and Enterprise plans. You can still have access to collections in a Free or Premium account. But your capabilities are going to be extremely limited. For all intents and purposes, collections are only good for testing in these plans.
The way it works is that you would create a collection and then add vault items to it. You would then assign users or user groups to that collection. All those users would then have access to the items you added to that collection.
Multiple Bitwarden users and user groups have access to the same items in a collection. Thus, collections offer a way of password sharing. This setup can be beneficial from a security standpoint. Organizations can dictate which items users can share among themselves. Let's say you want to share the password of a social media account that you want managed by a group of users. You can do that through a collection.
Password managers are excellent timesavers. But browser extensions take them to a whole new level. Like other extensions, the Bitwarden Browser Extension runs in your browser. When we’re using a PC or laptop, practically all our online activities are done on web browsers. So having a password manager right at the corner of your browser speeds up many online tasks.
You can use it to manage and access passwords and logins. You can use it to auto-fill username and password fields. You can have it create secure passwords in instant. And so on and so forth. Best of all, you can do all that without having to shift to another window or screen.
Encrypted file storage
You can attach files to your vault items. For example, I have here a secure note named ‘passport info'. It contains my passport details like my passport number, issue date, expiry date, and so on. However, I also want to attach an image of the passport itself. This will allow me to present additional proof if I somehow lose my physical passport. Bitwarden allows me to do that and I really like it.
Bitwarden will only let you attach a total of 1GB. But that’s ok. Most password managers only let you store attachments up to 1GB as well. The only reputable password manager I know that exceeds this capacity is NordPass. NordPass will let you attach files up to a total of 3GB. In most cases, 1GB is more than enough. If it’s not, you can pay for more storage. It currently costs $4 per 1GB per year for Premium.
Ease of Use and Setup
Password management on Bitwarden is almost purely utilitarian. There are no frills whatsoever. But while the interface can be uninspiring, it gets things done just the same. In the succeeding sections, I’m going to walk you through some of the common tasks we do on a password manager. This will give you glimpse of what it’s like to use and set up Bitwarden.
Bitwarden account creation
Creating a Bitwarden account is unbelievably fast. I completed it in probably just three minutes. Let me walk you through the steps I took to complete it.
- Go to the pricing page and select a plan. I picked the Premium plan. Yes, even until now, the price amazes me.
- Fill up the succeeding form with your email address, a username, and a master password. Remember that this will be the key to your vault, so come up with a strong password. If don’t know how, read the section “How to create secure passwords?” in the FAQ below. Keep a copy of the password in a safe place. Click Create account when done.
- Click the Send email button as shown below to verify your account’s email address. You should receive a verification email in a couple of seconds. Click the link in that email to verify.
- You’ll likely be asked to enter your master password again. After entering that, you should be brought back to the screen shown above. You’ll still be using the free version at this point.
Yes, I know I clicked the Create Premium Account earlier. It’s a bit confusing. This is one workflow Bitwarden needs to improve on. Actually, I encounter things like this on Bitwarden every-now-and-then. In my opinion, they’re not deal-breakers. But they can be a bit distracting sometimes. I don’t mind considering the ridiculously low cost.
- I wanted to use advanced features like Password Health and Emergency Access. So I upgraded to Premium. I forgot to capture the upgrade button, but it should be shown on that same screen above. After upgrading to Bitwarden Premium, I was all set. That’s it. Easy as pie!
As I said earlier, Bitwarden staff can’t help you retrieve your master password. If you lose that password, it’s going to be almost impossible to recover your account. There are, however, a couple of workarounds. But you need to set them up early on.
Your first hope is your master password hint. When you first create your account, you’re asked to enter a password hint. Actually, this only helps if your password is something you can recall. It doesn’t help if your password is just a random string of characters. If you want to use a hint, change your master password to something you can recall based on that hint. Of course, your password still has to be strong.
You can add a hint to an existing master password in the web vault. Web vault is just what Bitwarden calls its web app. Go to Account settings > Security > Master password hint. Do this before anything goes wrong!
Your second lifeline is a trusted emergency contact or contacts. These are Bitwarden users you assign when you set up Emergency Access. So, yes, you need to set up Emergency Access to have this recovery option. This option is useless if you haven’t set it up earlier. Your emergency contact can reset your master password as soon as he/she gains access to your account.
Without these precautionary measures, it’s impossible to recover a Bitwarden account. Starting all over again can be overwhelming. So if you don't want to be in that situation, put those precautions in place right from the start.
To be fair, all password managers that practice Zero Knowledge are like this. It's not easy to recover accounts on 1Password, NordPass, or Dashlane either. They too have workarounds. But, just as in Bitwarden, you need to set them up beforehand. That said, Dashlane's Biometric recovery is the coolest of them all. Read about it in my Dashlane review.
Bitwarden offers easy account recovery for Enterprise users though. This is in line with other leading password managers. In the Enterprise plan, users can simply request an admin to do a master password reset.
Export and import passwords
You can easily import data into Bitwarden from other password managers. Let me show you how to do it on the web vault.
- Login to the web vault and go to the Tools menu at the top of the web page.
- In the left menu, click on Import data.
- Expand the drop-down list and then select the source. Most sources are in CSV, but they can also come in JSON and other formats. Browse this page for a complete list of supported formats. That page also contains links to export instructions for certain sources.
- Choose the file you wish to import.
- Click Import Data. Remember that Bitwarden provides unlimited password storage. You can import as many login credentials as you want!
The steps to exporting data from Bitwarden are equally easy. You can see the tool for it in the screenshot above. Just go to Tools > Export vault, select a file format for export, and then click Confirm format. That’s all there is to it.
Using the desktop app
Bitwarden has an application for all three major desktop operating systems. That includes Windows, macOS, and Linux. This is not a given, as not all password managers have a desktop version. Dashlane, for instance, has abandoned its Windows and Mac desktop apps.
Bitwarden’s desktop password manager syncs instantly with other Bitwarden apps. I did my login imports through the web vault. But as soon as I was done with the import, those logins instantly showed on the desktop app.
To be honest, I found Bitwarden’s desktop password manager a bit buggy. I had better experiences on the mobile apps and on the web vault a.k.a. the web app. Here’s one example of a UI issue I encountered on the desktop. I was previously looking at the login item shown above. But when I navigated to the Secure Note section, the login details was still visible. It’s not a critical security issue. But minor issues like this are more common in Bitwarden than in other password managers.
You can add multiple accounts to your desktop app. Once you’ve added them, you can switch between accounts seamlessly. No logging out needed. This can come in handy if you want to separate, say, personal accounts and work accounts. You can find similar features in 1Password and NordPass. Other password managers, like Dashlane for instance, don't switch as smoothly. You still need to log out on the current account to switch to another.
Setting up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
The process to enable two-factor authentication is simple and straightforward. After logging into the web vault, click on Account Settings. You can find the Two-step Login tab in the Security section. Here, you can set up 2FA using several methods, like Google Authenticator.
To enable two-factor authentication using Google Authenticator, click the Manage button beside it. If asked, enter your master password. Scan the provided QR code with the Google Authenticator app on your mobile device. Once you verify the code displayed on your device, 2FA will be active. However, you can only see it in action after you log out and then log back in.
Bitwarden offers two options for sharing passwords. The first one uses Organizations and Collections. The second uses an encrypted sharing feature called Send. Both password sharing options are available on all Bitwarden clients. You can use them on your desktop app, mobile app, web app, and browser extension. I already talked about password sharing through collections earlier. You can check that out.
Bitwarden also offers a feature called Send. It's a secure way of sending all sorts of information. While I like Send as a sharing tool, I find it too complicated for sharing passwords. You have to go to your vault, navigate to a login, and copy the password. Then you have to go to the Send tool, create a send, and then paste the password there. Not very convenient if you ask me.
Personally, I find both sharing options too complicated. More so if you compare them with the way other password managers do it. In 1Password, NordPass, and Dashlane, for instance, it's much easier. You just go to a login, tap the share button, and then select sharing details.
Bitwarden Mobile App
Bitwarden's mobile apps are essentially portable versions of the desktop apps. They got all the key features. However, I like how the password generator is more front-and-center here. You can easily reach it at the bottom of the screen in the mobile app.
Just like in the desktop app, you can use multiple accounts in Bitwarden's mobile app. This can come in handy if, say, you want to separate personal and work accounts. Compartmentalizing your logins is one way of minimizing the risk of unintentional logins. For instance, it's possible to have both personal and work accounts on the same site. But, you wouldn't want to login using your work account if you intended to use your personal account.
Bitwarden offers several customer support options. First off, you can get help through the community forums, email, and the knowledgebase. Bitwarden also has an active community on Reddit. And if your concern is related to the Bitwarden source code, there's Github. They also reply on Twitter.
What they seriously lack is live chat customer support. Dashlane and NordPass offer this service. When I need an answer right away, I usually go to live chat. I get prompt responses in Dashlane and NordPass. So it's a pity that Bitwarden can't provide this type of service for their password manager.
We have reached the end of our comprehensive review. But before you go, you might want to check out our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). This section provides quick and clear responses to common queries about Bitwarden. Let's dive in.
What other password managers would I recommend?
Bitwarden is probably the best among only free password managers. But when you start including premium plans, there are definitely other options. 1Password, NordPass, and Dashlane are my top picks. Here's a table comparing their key qualities.
|Individual Premium Plan monthly cost||$2.99 / User||$2.39 / User||$3.33 / User||$0.83 / User|
|Business Plan monthly cost||$7.99 / User||$3.99 / User||$6.00 / User||$5.00 / User|
|Encrypted file storage|
|Autofill login details & credit card info|
|Support multiple operating systems|
|Hide account passwords while traveling|
|3rd party audits|
|Has free version|
|Virtual private network (VPN)|
Where does Bitwarden rank among the best free password managers?
Among only free password managers, I rank it number one. Bitwarden is the only top free password manager that supports unlimited devices. For me, that's crucial, especially since it's at par with others in all other attributes. Almost everybody uses multiple devices. Unfortunately, all other top free managers only support 1 device. Bitwarden's free plan is the only one that can meet real-world needs.
What is the purpose of a password manager?
The main purpose of a password manager is to promote the use of strong, unique passwords. It does this by greatly simplifying the processes involved. When you use a password manager, you no longer have to craft strong, unique passwords yourself. Your password management tool will do it for you. It can generate secure passwords in an instant.
Also, you don't have to recall all your passwords. Your password manager will store them all for you and retrieve them whenever you need them. It doesn't matter if you have tens, or hundreds, or thousands of passwords. Your password manager has the capacity and capability to store and recall them all.
Plus, with its browser extension, it makes password management quick and accessible. You can easily reach for it while you're online.
How secure is the Bitwarden free account?
Considering that Bitwarden is an open source password manager, I would say it’s very secure. The code of any open source software is open to whoever wants to review it. Bitwarden is known internationally. So developers and security experts around the world audit its code regularly. If vulnerabilities exist in the code, you can be sure someone's going to point it out right away.
Other password managers don’t offer this level of transparency. Their code is hidden from the public. Only the people in their organization know what's in there. If vulnerabilities exist in the code, only their developers can spot it.
Bitwarden also subjects itself to third party security audits on a regular basis. Independent security experts inspect their code and verify if it's as secure as they claim it is. They also inspect Bitwarden's servers and web applications. If a weakness is there, those auditors are likely to find it.
As far as I know, Bitwarden has not suffered a data breach. It even has a feature in its premium plans that reports on compromised passwords. That feature is called the Vault Health Report. Again, it's available in the premium plans.
What is the safest free password manager?
I don't think there's one free password manager that's head and shoulders above the rest. I would feel safe using any free version of NordPass, Dashlane, and Bitwarden. They're all packed with security features. And as far as I know, none of them has suffered a data breach. However, Bitwarden does have some major compelling security attributes:
1. It's open source, so other people can verify its security. Dashlane and NordPass are closed source.
2. It undergoes third party security audits. Dashlane doesn't.
3. It has a bug bounty program. NordPass doesn't.
This means Bitwarden doesn't just claim it's secure. It lets others verify those claims.
How to create secure passwords?
To create a strong or secure password, follow these tips:
- Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters
- Include numbers
- Include symbols like @, &, $, and so on.
- Make it long
That might be challenging at first. But with constant practice, you'll get the hang of it. That said, a secure password manager like Bitwarden simplifies this task substantially. Bitwarden's password generator can generate passwords in an instant. More importantly, it can follow those rules above while doing it.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?
Table of Contents
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?