Did you know Google has its own dedicated password manager? It’s more than just password-syncing built into the Chrome browser — Google’s solution also offers a web app, mobile apps, deep integration with Android, and automatic generation of strong passwords.
Few people have noticed this, which isn’t surprising — this feature has grown from a simple part of the Chrome browser to escape it and provide a larger, cross-platform password manager.
All the Ways You Can Access Your Passwords
Your saved passwords can be accessed in a variety of ways:
- Chrome on Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, and Linux: The password manager syncs with the Chrome browser, so it can be used in Google Chrome on any desktop or laptop platform
- Chrome for Android, iPhone, and iPad: Google Chrome’s mobile apps can also sync your passwords, so you can access them in the Chrome apps on Android, iPhone, and iPad. There’s no Safari integration on iOS — you’ll have to use the Chrome browser app.
- On the Web: Google offers a web-based interface to your passwords at https://passwords.google.com. You can sign in from anywhere with your Google account to access it.
- On the Mobile Web: This is also a responsive web page, which means you could access it from a smartphone. You could even add the website to your smartphone’s homescreen, copy-pasting passwords from https://passwords.google.com whenever you need to log into an app.
- In Android Apps: Google recently added a feature named “Smart Lock for Passwords” to nearly all Android devices as part of a Google Play Services update. This feature integrates with Google’s password manager to automatically log you into apps that support it. For example, let’s say you log into Netflix in Chrome on the desktop, and you save that Netflix password in Chrome’s password manager. You can later open Netflix on your Android smartphone or tablet and Android will provide your Netflix credentials to the app, automatically logging you in. This behavior can be disabled or tweaked if you don’t like it.
How to Start Using Google’s Password Manager
To start using Google’s password manager, just use Google Chrome on your desktop, smartphone, or tablet. SIgn into Chrome with your Google account. From Chrome’s Settings, click the “Advanced sync settings” button and ensure Chrome is set to sync passwords.
(Note that, if you choose to encrypt your passwords with “your own sync passphrase”, you won’t be able to access your passwords on the web. Smart Lock for Passwords on Android won’t function, either.)
You should also ensure Chrome is set to offer to save your passwords. From Chrome’s Settings screen, search for “passwords” and ensure “Offer to save your web passwords” is enabled under “Autofill and forms.”
You can also “Enable autofill to fill out web forms in a single click.” This gives you an autofill feature like the one found in popular password managers — it can even automatically fill credit card payment details and your address from information stored in Google Wallet, if you like.
You can later click the “Manage passwords” link here or head to chrome://settings/passwords in Chrome, to access, manage, and view a list of your saved passwords.
To actually save a password, just head to a website and sign in normally. Chrome will ask if you want to save the username and password you used on that website, and you can agree.
The next time you visit the website’s login page, Chrome will automatically fill in your username and password.
Automatically Generate Strong Passwords
Google Chrome also contains a feature that will helpfully generate new, random passwords for you and save them to your vault. Many dedicated password managers — including LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane — offer this feature.
However, this feature isn’t enabled by default — it’s a hidden flag. Plug chrome://flags into Chrome’s address bar and press Enter to access the list of flags. Locate the “Enable password generation” flag and set it to “Enabled.”
The next time you create a password, Chrome will detect that you’re using an account-creation page and offer to automatically fill and and save a random password for you.
You can also modify other flags that can make the password manager more useful — for example, website developers have the ability to mark certain password fields with a “do not remember” option, which would make Chrome not offer to remember the password. There’s a “Enable force-saving of passwords” flag that will make Chrome ignore this, allowing it to remember any password.
Google’s password manager isn’t as feature-filled as dedicated password manager apps, but Google has regularly been adding features. It’s linked to your Google account, and Google accounts are pretty secure — they can even be protected with all kinds of two-step authentication.
Google’s focus is on providing an easy password manager that automatically works with features like Smart Lock for Passwords, so people looking for a more powerful interface might want to go with another password manager instead.
Image Credit: @sage_solar on Flickr
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