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Bitwarden review: This open-source password manager unlocks choice

The Bitwarden extension is open in a browser showing an article about password managers.
Bitwarden
MSRP $10.00
“Bitwarden’s free plan is hard to beat, while its Families plan offers good value for a large group.”
Pros
  • Excellent security record
  • Easy access to logins, files, and more
  • Good cross-platform support
  • Free version is full-featured
  • Low prices on individual and family plans
Cons
  • Limited sharing
  • Family setup can be confusing

Bitwarden is one of the best password managers, helping you organize and share logins and more across multiple devices. It’s also among the most popular open-source password managers, providing a great free version with plenty of customization options.

Bitwarden offers more advanced versions if you become a subscriber, so I signed up to review the paid version to find out if it’s easier to use and has enough features to justify the added expense.

Tiers and pricing

It's hard to beat free, but you need Bitwarden Premium or Families to share logins.
It’s hard to beat free, but you need Bitwarden Premium or Families to share logins. Digital Trends

Bitwarden offers a free version of its password manager that supports unlimited devices and passwords with apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. It’s a great solution and might be all you need if you only need to share logins with one other person.

Bitwarden’s Premium subscription costs just $10 each year. It adds an integrated authenticator that generates the six-digit codes required for some accounts. Instead of opening an authentication app to get these time-based, one-time passwords (TOTP), Bitwarden makes this security feature accessible from the browser extension.

Bitwarden’s Families plan allows up to six members for $40 per year and includes a second gigabyte of secure group storage. Being able to share with more people is a welcome addition. Still, few password managers limit password sharing.

A Teams plan costs $48 annually per member and allows unlimited sharing and business-oriented features like event logs, user groups, and a directory. An Enterprise plan costs $72 per year for each member per and lets an administrator set policies, recover accounts, and makes every member account a Families plan account.

Paid plans include 1GB of encrypted storage for notes and uploaded file attachments. Unlike the subscription plans available from 1Password and Dashlane, I can add more cloud storage to my Bitwarden plan. The cost for extra storage is $4 per gigabyte annually, so this won’t replace your use of iCloud Plus or Google One cloud storage.

Design

I can store encrypted logins, notes, files, and more in my Bitwarden vault.
I can store encrypted logins, notes, files, and more in my Bitwarden vault. Digital Trends

Bitwarden setup is easy for individuals. After subscribing, I installed the Windows app and browser extension. Bitwarden works in most browsers, including Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, Vivaldi, Opera, Brave, Tor, and DuckDuckGo. That broad support is possible due to its 344 open-source contributors.

As with other password managers, setting a master password is a critical step, and I wrote this secret key down on paper, so it’s safely stored offline. After exporting my browser passwords and importing to Bitwarden, I installed the iPhone app and enabled permissions, and my logins were already there.

I tested the Bitwarden Families plan, which supports up to six people. At first, I thought something was wrong with my subscription, because my account said I was a Premium member.

Bitwarden's terminology can be confusing when setting up a family account.
Bitwarden’s terminology can be confusing when setting up a family account. Digital Trends

When I opened my “admin console,” I found that I could add more members to my “organization” to make a shared collection of passwords. The terminology works for businesses, but I found it confusing for a family.

Once I understood the wording, everything else made sense. The apps and browser extensions have a simple but clean design that gets the job done.

Features

Bitwarden offers more autofill and security options than competitors.
Bitwarden offers more autofill and security options than competitors. Digital Trends

Some antivirus software like Norton and Bitdefender include password managers, but dedicated solutions usually offer more features.

Bitwarden automatically fills passwords and offers more customization options than competing password managers. In the browser extension, I can choose how autofill happens, when my vault times out, and whether my account is logged out completely or if I can unlock to gain access again. With Bitwarden’s Windows app installed, I can use Windows Hello to unlock my vault.

The iPhone app has its own options and works with Face ID and Touch ID to simplify access. Everything works as expected, so I can share among family members, sign into all my favorite accounts, access secure notes, and download encrypted files from my iPhone.

My vault travels with me across devices for quick, simple access with no hassle. I can organize my favorite accounts and credentials, identify issues with weak and leaked passwords with admin reports, and clean up unused accounts to avoid confusion. It’s a robust way to manage a large collection of passwords.

Support

Bitwarden's customer support is by email, but answers can be found in the extensive documentation.
Bitwarden’s customer support is by email, but answers can be found in the extensive documentation. Digital Trends

Bitwarden customer service is via email. Bitwarden’s community seems very active and responsive, but official support could take up several hours. That’s not unusual for password managers. I sent my request on a Sunday and received an answer in less than three hours.

If you want quicker help, Bitwarden’s website lists its social media accounts on X, Reddit, and GitHub. Bitwarden has extensive documentation in the support center.

Privacy and security

Bitwarden is SOC 2 certified and uses end-to-end encryption.
Bitwarden is SOC 2 certified and uses end-to-end encryption. Digital Trends

Bitwarden has never suffered a breach, but it’s possible to self-host a Bitwarden account so all data remains on your own server. However, that only improves privacy if your server is as secure as Bitwarden’s.

Bitwarden uses AES 256-bit end-to-end encryption, so the company can’t view your passwords or secure files. It’s also SOC 2 certified with annual third-party security audits.

You might have seen some articles questioning Bitwarden’s security. Researchers highlighted a potential weakness if you enable the option to autofill as soon as a web page loads. This option is off by default, so it’s not an inherent danger.

Since your data is encrypted, it’s safe, but some account data is used to provide service, as well as for billing and support. According to Bitwarden’s privacy policy, Bitwarden won’t sell or share your data with advertisers.

Bitwarden will comply with legal requests for data and might send advertisements about upgrades to your Bitwarden account, unless you opt out.

Is Bitwarden right for you?

Bitwarden’s free plan is hard to beat since it offers the basics with few limitations beyond sharing. If you need to share with one other person, Bitwarden Premium might be the most affordable and complete solution.

For a small group, the Families plan is an inexpensive way to organize information to securely share passwords, notes, IDs, and files, but you should expect to spend some time getting used to the controls.

Bitwarden is one of the best password managers for easy cross-platform use and one of the few built by an open-source community. If you have coding experience, you can join in and help improve the app’s usability and feature set.

1Password’s Families plan is easier to set up and costs about the same, while Dashlane’s Family and Friends plan offers additional security features like a VPN and dark web monitoring. It can be difficult to narrow in on the right choice since everyone’s needs are different, but Bitwarden is a worthy consideration.

Editors' Recommendations

Alan Truly
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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