KeePassX: a free password manager for Linux, Mac and Windows

Ditch the Post-it note for a dedicated security application

KeePassX manages username and password credentials and other sensitive information. Shown here on Windows XP, but it also runs on Linux and Mac OS X.

KeePassX manages username and password credentials and other sensitive information. Shown here on Windows XP, but it also runs on Linux and Mac OS X.

If you're finding it impossible to keep up with the multitude of passwords required to use computers and the Internet then why not try a password manager like KeePassX. It works with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and keeps login data and other sensitive information in an encrypted database.

I could go on about the perils of passwords, but that won't change a thing. The harsh reality is the IT industry has built itself around passwords for en masse authentication and we as consumers all suffer. But it doesn't have to be a complete nightmare. And, yes, using the same password for many or all your authentication needs is a bad idea!

I've found that using a password manager may be lipstick on a pig, but at the very least it provides an encrypted way of storing your sensitive information that can be backed up easily.

Open source application, KeePassX, is a password manager everyone can try as it is free and runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows [XP and Vista].

The basic premise of a password manager is simple – store all your individual account information as separate “entries” in the password manager and use a master password to “unlock” the encrypted data store containing the passwords (and usernames, if applicable).

So, while password managers require a single “master password” to gain access to all your passwords, they do secure the information by encrypting it which is better than simply listing passwords in a text file, spreadsheet, or, even worse, on a Post-it note under the computer's keyboard.

Getting started

Using KeePassX is very simple. Download the application for your operating system, extract it to a directory of your choice and then run the executable.

When first started, KeePassX requires the user to create a new “database” (file extension .kdb) to store a set of passwords in.

To do this select “File”, “New Database” and set a master password or choose a key file for master authentication. You will be asked to repeat the new master password.

The complete database is always encrypted either with 256-bit AES or Twofish encryption so it is “quite safe” according to its developers.

I recommend you choose a good password as your master password and something that you will remember and not need to record anywhere – physically or electronically.

With the master password set, save the database file with a name of your choice and start adding entries for your logins.

By default there are two groups – Internet and e-mail – but you can add other groups to collate different types of logins. For example, you can add a group like “music” to keep track of all your passwords relating to music services you subscribe to, or “socialnetworks” for social networks, and so on.

Once you are happy with the group settings you can begin adding passwords by selecting “Add New Entry” from the “Edit” menu or by simply clicking on the key icon in the toolbar.

From there adding login credentials is very easy and each entry will be saved in the selected group in a list.

KeePassX allows you to set whether login information is visible in the list (handy for any snoops looking over your shoulder) and if a password should ever need to expire after a given date.

The URL field of the entry makes it easy to open the login page of a Web service as clicking on it will open the link with your operating system's default browser.

If your account details also require some form of accompanying unstructured data – like, for example, those annoying “secret” questions and answers banks often force people to set and forget – the comments field can be used to store this information in the same entry.

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