We all struggle with keeping and securing passwords for the various accounts and systems we access. Here are 17 reader-recommended free and low-cost password-storage solutions, plus two more from <B>Fred Langa</B>.

Fred Langa, Contributor

April 28, 2004

5 Min Read

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I know there are many of these programs out there and everyone has their favorite. I've had good luck with a small password-storage program called PINs. It will definitely fit on a floppy or USB keychain device easily. BTW, you might mention that users should try to determine if a password-storage utility is trustworthy before using it. It'd be easy enough for a black-hat hacker to post a utility that stores your passwords, then sends a copy along to him. ;-) As always, installing ZoneAlarm [or any other firewall that alerts you to outbound "phone home" behavior] helps protect against this to some degree by alerting you to apps trying to connect out of your computer, but you still need to be careful.
-- Jeff Wilkinson

I use Password Manager by Celerity Consulting Services Inc. [shareware; 60 day free trial; $15 to keep] I wanted to be able to update a common list at home and at work. After several disasters, trying to keep the home and work files synchronized, I tried keeping the only version of the encrypted file on a zip250 disk that I carry back and forth every day. But, Password Manager requires the encrypted data file be in the same directory as the executable. So I moved the entire Password Manager executable directory to the zip disk. It is small enough to fit on a diskette or a USB device. (Yes, I do have daily backups of the zip disk). My solution doesn't even require any zip software installed on the company computer.
-- Anonymous

May I recommend Password Keeper 2000? Although the site makes no play of it, this shareware program ($19.95) will run from floppy, etc., if all the program files are copied to one. I actually use this for my home system, putting the floppy in the safe when not in use so my passwords don't even reside on my home computer.
-- [Name withheld by request]

I use a program called Whisper32 for my password and I do use it on a pen drive. It does have some good encryption. It's free. They have versions for Win 95 through XP.
-- Anonymous

I've been using Cloak Desktop on two different Palm OS PDA's for many years now. According to the site, it enables folks to: "Keep Account Numbers, Passwords, and PINs Under Wraps. Cloak software helps keep your Palm OS handheld and your PC from exposing private information to strangers or nosy colleagues." I keep EVERYTHING in Cloak--logins, software-registration numbers, download keys, passport number, license numbers, credit-card and bank info, etc. I only have to remember one very secure password to access them all from home or on the road. It's free to try, and only about $20 for both the PC and PDA application. Also, if password is required to even turn on the PDA, that's pretty secure! I know this requires the installation of software, and you've got to have a PDA to use it, but Cloak is a very reliable piece of software, and, after nearly five years, I wouldn't (couldn't) be without it! If it secures sensitive company information (that employees would normally leave exposed), then the boss shouldn't kick too much. He/she and the tech people should encourage installing software that enables employees to secure data easily and access it easily! (Otherwise, they'll keep it under their keyboards on Post-its!) ;-)
-- Chuck

The Password Agent program can be completely installed to a thumb drive. I recently switched from Password Agent to RoboForm only because of the [latter's] form-filling capability. Password agent can do all that one needs for passwords. The following quote is from their manual about installing: "TakeWithMe wizard—It's possible to take Password Agent and your password database file(s) along with you, you just need to copy them to a removable disk (floppy, USB flash disk, etc.) that you carry with you. That way your passwords and secrets are always with you and you can run the program off the removable disk--you don't have to install it on the target computer. Only the main executable file is required to run the program, although you can also include help file or any other files." A single user license is only $19.95 for the unlimited version. I have been a happy user of this program for two years.
-- Dale Ellis

A few years ago, I picked up a nifty little program called Secrets created and distributed by Thomas Barrett at Barrett Enterprise Software on the Web. Secrets is a small (2.44-MB) but effective, no-frills encrypted password-protection program. It sells for just $5 and he will accept PayPal. You can try it yourself free for 21 days.
-- Mel Parrish Jr.

Regarding Safe Storage For Passwords, I use SplashID and I like it quite a bit. It's not free, but it's pretty cheap ($30) and if you use a Palm Pilot, it provides you with on-the-road capability. Its very nice at keeping your passwords organized, and it has both a desktop and a palmtop piece that makes it convenient to use at home or on the road.
-- Barry F. Margolius

With 19 suggestions at hand--two from Fred and 17 more from readers--there's almost surely something here to suit most needs for safe, secure, and inexpensive password storage. But even this list only scratches the surface. What tools to you use? How do you manage your passwords, and keep them accessible, handy, and safe from prying eyes? Join in the discussion!

Please join in the discussion!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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