You can't use the same email and password for every online account because it’s a massive security risk. If just one account gets hacked, all your accounts are compromised.

However, no-one can you remember hundreds of different password and email combinations. That's where a password manager comes in.

It’s an app or web browser extension which safely stores all your passwords and enters them for you when you need to log in to a website. On your phone, a good password manager should also be able to enter logins for apps which require them such as Facebook, Netflix and Amazon.

Better still, it will work across all your devices and all you have to remember is one password to access all your logins. You should use a really strong password for that, but on most phones and some laptops you can use your fingerprint or a passcode to log in to the manager after entering that password for the first time. Never forget it (and write it down somewhere), but you won't have to remember or enter it regularly.

Although iPhones and iPads will save website logins, they don’t do the same for apps and you can’t use Keychain on any of your non-Apple devices, which is another reason to use a password manager app instead.

We’re using LastPass here as an example, but you can find alternatives in our roundup of the best password managers.

How to use LastPass

Password managers generally all work in the same way. Once you’ve signed up for an account, you can use the email address and password you signed up with to log into the app on your phone, or the extension in a web browser such as Chrome.

1. Import existing passwords

If you’ve been using Chrome to save passwords, you might be able to import those logins to your new password manager, and there are lots of options in LastPass. You'll have to use the LastPass extension in Chrome on a PC or laptop to do this, but once installed and you have signed in, click on the LastPass icon at the top-right of Chrome then Account options > Advanced > Import. 

How to use a password manager

Then pick Chrome Password Manager from the list - or any of the other options of where you have passwords already saved.

2. Add a new login

Whether you have any saved passwords or not, you can add logins as and when you need to sign into a website or app. Usually, a password manager will pop up a notification to ask if you want to save the login details you just entered.

Similarly, when you're on a web page (or in an app) where you need to sign in you'll see a little icon on the right-hand side of the username and password fields. For LastPass, just click it and you'll see any matching logins for that website. Click on the one you want, and the email and password will be filled out instantly. You can then click the Log in button.

For other password managers, such as Bitwarden, you may have to click on the icon at the top right of your web browser (as shown below), then click on the login to use.

Bitwarden extension Chrome

For some websites you might want to store multiple logins if you have different accounts with different email addresses such as work and personal, or yours and your spouse's logins for sites such as supermarkets or Amazon.

How to use a password manager

3. Sign into an app with a password manager

When using a password manager on your phone, you need to grant your password manager permission to display over other apps and websites which means enabling the accessibility service. This should only ever be done for trustworthy apps such as LastPass and Bitwarden.

How to use a password manager

Having your login details entered for websites automatically is a huge time saver, but you can do the same with apps on your phone as well. In most cases, you need to log into that app only once, as LastPass will detect this and offer to save the details just as with a website.

The next time you need to log in to the app, LastPass will enter the details automatically.

4. Sync and access passwords on all your devices

Most password managers store your logins securely (using encryption) in the cloud, which means they’re available across all your devices and supported web browsers.

For each device or web browser, all you have to do it install the app or browser extension, sign in with that master email address and password and you have access to all your saved logins.

How to use a password manager

Most password managers, including LastPass, can also store other sensitive data such as your credit and debit card details, and then enter these into the correct fields when you’re paying for things on websites.

How to use a password manager

Once you’ve added all your apps and websites, you’ll be able to log into them safely and swiftly without having to remember any of them, and without compromising their security.

Related articles for further reading