Painless password management: The best free and paid tools

How to keep your passwords safe on the wild and woolly Web.

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There are also some features that, while not as important, are just nice to have. Given my druthers, I want a program with multiple operating system, device and browser support that will run on my Windows and Linux PCs, my Macs, my Android Droid 2 smartphone and my iPad. I also like programs that automatically create and save passwords for new sites as I log into them for the first time.

That said, here are some of the best local password managers. You're bound to find one that suits your needs.

At the top of the list is RoboForm. As Mark M. Webster a Senior Consultant for BT Global Services told me, you'll find "that it does most of what you would want a password manager to do and a lot else as well. I have been a customer of RoboForm for nearly 10 years and I am partial to passwords on the order of ¡Dál87o2JsQoi! and worse, so it has been a great help."

Webster's right. RoboForm is an excellent program and I appreciate that it works with almost all browsers and smartphones. Now, if it only worked on Linux, I'd love it. As it is, though, I think RoboForm is a great pick for most people. Pricing varies from a free version to a $29.95 one-time option for PCs to a $19.95 subscription model that also covers mobile devices and a unlimited number of PCs, smartphones, and tablets (at the time of this writing, the subscription version is being offered for $9.95 for the first year).

Let's say though that you're really, really serious about security. In that case, you may want to consider IronKey Personal. These are secure USB flash drives that come pre-configured with a built-in version of the Firefox Web browser for Windows and use military-grade encryption. What happens if you lose it? Well the thief had better be darn good because he'll get 10 cracks at guessing the drive's master password and then Ironkey will blow away everything on the drive.

IronKey Personal doesn't come cheap though. You're looking at a minimum of $79.95. That said, if you need serious security on the road, this is what you want.

Two other local password managers worth considering are Norton Internet Security 2011, which comes with a host of other decent security programs, and Kaspersky Password Manager 4. I like that in the Kaspersky program you use a virtual keyboard with your mouse instead of the keyboard when you enter a password for the first time. This defeats any keylogger malware. The Norton program lists for $69.99 direct for three licenses, while Kaspersky retails for $24.95.

Web-based password management

Web-based password management programs make some users nervous. I can understand that. You're putting all your passwords -- or their encrypted hashes anyway -- in the hands of a third party over the Internet. On the other hand, done correctly, your passwords can't be read by the password management company because they're stored securely and they'll only be sent to Web sites over encrypted connections. They're also just easier to use if you, like me, use a host of different devices to visit Web sites and you don't want to reenter passwords into management programs on one device after another.

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