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KeePassXC password manager review

A secure cross-platform password manager

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(Image: © KeePassXC)

Our Verdict

KeePassXC appeals to Linux users who want to handle their own password management offline, but the added effort involved and lack of built-in password sync will frustrate casual users.

For

  • Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • More secure than cloud-based password managers

Against

  • Outdated interface
  • No built-in password synchronization

KeePassXC is a community-developed open-source fork of KeePass, one of the best password managers for Windows. KeePassXC differs from KeePass because it works on Linux, Mac, and Windows, but it also lacks some of the original software’s features, such as plug-in support.

In our KeePassXC review, we look at why you might choose KeePassXC over established commercial password managers.

Features and utilities

Besides its cross-platform support, KeePassXC’s most interesting feature is autotype. Selecting a password entry in KeePassXC and hitting an Autofill shortcut key automatically fills in the username and password field of your current application. This works in most browsers and desktop applications without requiring a separate plugin.

KeePassXC doesn’t have in-built syncing of database files across devices, but as the files are fully encrypted and self-contained, you can sync them on platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox without fear of anyone accessing the data without the master password.

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You can create strong passwords with KeePassXC’s password generator. (Image credit: KeePassXC)

Setup

Installing and setting up KeePassXC is relatively straightforward. You download the application from the KeePassXC website and run through the simple setup program. Passwords in KeePassXC are stored in secure database files, and you’ll be prompted to create a new file or import passwords from a KeePass1 or 1Password file. A master password of your choice unlocks your database, and if you forget this password, the database will be unusable.

Then you’ll fill in entries for all of your passwords, optionally adding notes and using the password generator to create secure passwords.

A separate browser plug-in named KeePassXC-Browser is available for Chrome and Firefox. When you have this browser plug-in installed and your KeePassXC database open on your computer, password details can be automatically filled in on detected web pages. This only works on computers where you have KeePassXC installed, which is less convenient than cloud-based password managers.

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Installing KeePassXC on Windows only takes a few minutes. (Image credit: KeePassXC)

Interface and performance

KeePassXC’s interface isn’t the most modern, but it’s designed for functionality. Password entries can be organized into groups, and each password entry has options for URL, expiry data, notes, and icon. You can add attributes and attachments and choose settings for browser integration and auto-typing. A password generator with customizable rules can help you create strong passwords.

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KeePassXC’s user interface closely resembles the KeePass interface. (Image credit: KeePassXC)

Security

One of the top reasons to use KeePassXC is you never need to store your passwords on a remote server. Your credentials are stored locally in AES-256-encrypted database files that can only be decrypted using the correct password. Even if a hacker got a hold of your database file, it’s useless to them without the ability to decrypt it. You can take this further with two-factor authentication, which means the database file can’t be opened unless a key-file is present on the device. 

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The browser plugin can autofill logins and passwords if the desktop client is running. (Image credit: KeePassXC)

Support

KeePassXC is open-source software designed for professional computer users, and the relatively basic support reflects this. There’s a PDF user manual, an FAQ, and a blog, and that’s about it. If you have queries not covered in the FAQ, you can contact the developers through Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and there’s a GitHub issue tracker for the software. Thankfully, Reddit has a very active and friendly /r/KeePass community that discusses all KeePass variants, including KeePassXC.

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KeePassXC has a quick start guide and a user manual in PDF format. (Image credit: KeePassXC)

Plans and pricing

KeePassXC is published under the terms of the GNU General Public License, meaning it’s free for all to use. The development team accepts PayPal, Flattr, Bitcoin, and Patreon donations. Paying $5 or more per month sees your name listed on the software’s about page alongside other contributors.

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KeePassXC is free for personal and commercial use, but you can support the developers through Patreon. (Image credit: KeePassXC)

The competition

Development of KeePassXC began because KeePass was only available for Windows, but now that KeePass is installable on other desktop platforms using Mono, KeePass is a legitimate choice for those who need a cross-platform password manager.

KeePass offers more options and control than KeePassXC, particularly on Windows, so if you plan to use Windows more often, we suggest you check it out. We’d still recommend the native KeePassXC client over KeePass if you primarily work on Linux, as it integrates more cleanly with the operating system.

Final verdict

KeePassXC is more difficult to use than commercial alternatives like 1Password and LastPass, but it’s not targeted at the casual user. Using KeePassXC gives you complete control over your passwords by storing everything in a secure local file instead of on a remote server, which for many users is preferable given the prevalence of data breaches. The autofill function, too, is a useful feature that few alternatives offer.

We recommend KeePassXC as a tool for power users who want to handle every aspect of their own secure personal data management, particularly those who work on Linux, but most people will find KeePassXC inconvenient compared to cloud-based password managers.