Bitwarden Review 2023: A Good Choice for Secure Passwords?
Websites and online services are constantly under digital siege. Cyber attacks are routine while data leaks can be disastrous for users and their privacy. Password managers have become one of the most popular tools to protect sensitive online data.
These generate unique, secure passwords for each service that you use, and also save and encrypt them in an impenetrable digital vault. Only you can access them with a master key. One of the newest faces in the password manager game is Bitwarden.
What Is Bitwarden?
Bitwarden* is an open-source password manager developed by 8bit Solutions LLC. It's available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and a wide range of browsers. First came a mobile app in 2016, followed by standalone desktop software in 2018. This makes Bitwarden fairly new to the market. Below, we'll let you know whether it can hold its own against its more experienced competitors.
Excellent user-friendly applications
Robust, externally-tested security
Reliable desktop autofill
Disappointing mobile autofill
Some basic features behind paywalls
Installation & Usage
Bitwarden is available on a variety of different platforms. When starting out, select the appropriate installation file from the download section of the provider's website. You can create a free account either on the website or in the desktop client. As with most password managers, you'll then have to come up with a master password which serves as the combination to your digital password vault.
The app shows you how secure your master password is and lets you add a hint in case you need help remembering it.
Bitwarden helps users create a strong master password.
After registration, you'll be taken to the desktop app's dashboard, which is split into three vertical columns: On the left, you'll find the main menu, shortcuts, types of data sets, and folders. The middle column displays your individual data sets and features a nifty search tool. Finally, the column on the right displays additional information relating to the entries you've selected.
To create new entries, click on the plus symbol. Bitwarden sticks to tried and tested designs, and it shows. Its desktop app's simple and clear interface is easy to use, and you won't need long to find any features you might be looking for.
It doesn't take long to find your bearings in Bitwarden's user interface.
The only exception to this is the import function. Data can only be imported through the browser component of Bitwarden, its Web Vault. We were able to successfully import a LastPass CSV file here. Usernames and passwords were correctly imported and LastPass categories were displayed as folders in Bitwarden's main menu.
Go to Bitwarden's Web Vault to import data sets.
Bitwarden has done its homework and incorporates many of those elements that work for its competitors into its own design. Its apps are all intuitive and its features don't require lengthy explanations, helping newcomers to get started quickly.
Intuitive whether browser or desktop-based
Bitwarden can be broken down into three components, namely, its Web Vault, the desktop app, and a browser extension.
The Web Vault provides access to more specialized features that see less use. These include imports as well as password security reports. Unfortunately, the latter are only available to premium users.
To keep its desktop app streamlined, Bitwarden moved several important features, like data imports, to the Web Vault. We don't see the logic in this. To access the Web Vault from the desktop app, click on Help > Open Web Vault. It would be nice if there were shortcuts in the browser extension to switch between the desktop app and the Web Vault.
Many features are only accessible in the Web Vault.
You can exercise greater control over your data sets and manually create new entries in the desktop app. It's nice that this feature isn't behind a paywall. The desktop app's interface offers a straightforward no-frills user experience.
Bitwarden's desktop app is intuitive.
Powerful browser extension with solid autofill capabilities
The browser extension is not automatically installed and needs to be separately added. Simply go to the Bitwarden website and follow the installation instructions. Bitwarden's developers seem to have drawn inspiration from some of their competitors since the browser extension is more or less a mini version of the desktop app.
It does come with a few more features than its competitors's browser extensions. These include the ability to create new entries and access your entire vault. We also liked how Bitwarden allows users to open the extension in a separate window. Since the browser extension offers nearly identical features to the desktop app, the result is that you won't need to always open the latter.
The browser extension also comes with a password generator, and users can securely share data and notes (more on this in the next section).
Bitwarden's browser extension offers access to many features.
Bitwarden's apps are simple by design and focus on the password manager's core features. By housing less commonly used features in the Web Vault, the desktop app and browser extension are kept free of clutter. Although this might be frustrating to those who need these features, the result is that anyone can effectively use Bitwarden out of the box. Problems or issues can also be quickly (and easily) rectified.
Create secure passwords and passphrases with Bitwarden's password generator.
You can also create a PIN to unlock your Bitwarden account instead of the master password. Thanks to the many themes on offer, it's possible to change the app's design at any time.
Sharing passwords works a little differently with Bitwarden. You'll need to create an "organization" in the Web Vault where you can insert data sets that are intended for multiple users.
Unfortunately, even though other providers offer password sharing for free, Bitwarden sells it as an at-cost add-on, even for paying subscribers. Administrators can create an organization for free but are only able to add two other users to it. The fee starts at $3 per month.
Shared data sets in your Bitwarden vault with a custom "Organization".
Security features also aren't included with Bitwarden's free version, and only paying subscribers can access them through the Web Vault. They'll get reports about compromised, weak, or reused passwords. Only the theft report is provided at no charge.
Data theft reports quickly inform you if any of your accounts have been impacted by leaks.
We had a positive experience with Bitwarden's autofill for standard logins. Its browser extension completed login forms correctly on all of the websites we tested it on. Similarly, bank data was automatically copied to the correct form. Autosave, which automatically saves new login data, was a bit problematic during our last test but worked perfectly this time.
Unfortunately, Bitwarden doesn't display a button directly in the login form for usernames and passwords, like most of its competitors. Especially when creating a new account or changing a password, this would be useful. The short detour through the browser extension isn't too much of an issue though.
Autofill works through the browser extension.
Bitwarden scores thanks to its reliable autofill and access to the most important features. It is frustrating that you need to pay for some of these, even if you're already a paying subscriber. However, since the software is reasonably priced, the impact on your wallet isn't too significant.
Bitwarden uses AES 256, which is considered to be uncrackable. Due to their adherence to the zero-knowledge principle, only you know your master password and Bitwarden has no access to it.
The app also comes with two-factor authentication. Free version users can take advantage of authenticator apps like Google Authenticator and Authy or verify logins via email. Premium subscribers are given access to additional options, like Yubikey and Duo Security.
Bitwarden comes with a number of useful 2FA options.
Bitwarden's external security audit by Insight Risk Consulting didn't identify any significant threats or vulnerabilities. Even though external audits are popular among VPNs, they're uncommon in the world of password managers. Bitwarden's willingness to submit to one shows that the developer doesn't take its users' security and privacy lightly and we commend them for their initiative.
Bitwarden's mobile app is very similar to its desktop client. You'll find your data sets, folders, and collections in the vault, its main interface. The password generator and settings can be accessed through the menu bar.
Because the mobile app doesn't include a dedicated browser, data sets open automatically in your phone or device's default browser. Autofill wasn't as reliable in the mobile app as in the desktop version, and the Bitwarden button didn't always appear in the fields where it should.
Access all of the most important features in Bitwarden's mobile app.
Instead of needing to input your master password to unlock your phone's vault, you can do so with a PIN or fingerprint scan.
All things considered, the Bitwarden mobile app matched our expectations, even if its autofill was somewhat unreliable.
Bitwarden's help center provides answers to most FAQs users might have. More detailed questions can be posted to the service's forum. You can only contact the developers directly via email since neither a ticket system nor live chat is offered. Our question was answered (on a Saturday) in 11 hours.
Bitwarden only offers email support, but its response times are decent.
The customer service representative who answered our query was quick and helpful, however, we would still like to see more support channels.
Bitwarden is relatively affordable. Its premium version, which provides access to additional security features, data storage, and better support, costs $10 per year. However, there are additional fees for the software's sharing ("Organization") feature. Businesses can take advantage of special rates.
The software's free version is also worth taking a look at. Even though you can store as many data sets as you like, there are some other limitations. For those interested in a free password manager, Bitwarden is an excellent solution.
The table below provides a detailed look at Bitwarden's current pricing structure:
|Base Price per Month||$0.00||$0.83||$0.00||$3.33||$0.00|
|Price per User||-||-||$3.00||-||$5.00|
|Contract Period (Months)||0||12||12||12||12|
|Number of Users||1||1||unlimited||6||unlimited|
|Number of Passwords||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of Devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Sync Multiple Devices|
|Two Factor Authentication|
Cloud / SaaS
Cloud / SaaS
Cloud / SaaS
Cloud / SaaS
Cloud / SaaS
Bitwarden does many things right: It excels thanks to its intuitive apps, reliable autofill, and practical security features. Further sweetening the pot is its affordable price and highly usable free version.
Unfortunately, Bitwarden does have some minor issues. For example, autofill wasn't as reliable in the mobile app as on the desktop. We also weren't thrilled to see some at-cost add-ons, even for paying subscribers. All the same, owing to the service's affordability, this isn't the end of the world.
Overall, Bitwarden offers excellent performance at an affordable price.
But what do users have to say about Bitwarden? We've gathered their comments and feedback from reliable review portals below:
If you're looking for a password manager with an equally good free version, we can recommend NordPass. Like Bitwarden, it also doesn't limit the number of data sets you can store or syncable devices.
On the other hand, if you're ready to pay for top-of-the-line service, we suggest checking out Dashlane, the winner of our comprehensive evaluation.
More of the best BItwarden alternatives can be found below: