We have so many passwords to remember these days that using a password manager is not an option, it is essential. The question is, which one should you use? What about Google Smart Lock for Passwords?
Web browsers have been able to store the login details for websites for a long time and it is hard to remember when they weren’t able to. However, the password storage features were very basic and so when password managers came along, many people welcomed them with open arms and switched.
However, web browsers are fighting back and if you have not looked at Chrome’s password manager for a long time, it is worth another look. It was updated some time ago, but like a lot of people, you may have been using a third party password manager and not noticed.
Sync your passwords
An important feature of password managers for many people is syncing across computers, phones and tablets. You need to be able to save the login details for a website on one computer and use them on another computer or device. Syncing should be seamless and work in the background.
Google Smart Lock for Passwords is built into Chrome browser and because Chrome is available almost everywhere, and because it syncs through your Google account, your passwords are available everywhere. Well, everywhere you use Chrome, which is Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and Chrome OS.
Chrome remembers your passwords, syncs them to Chrome everywhere, and automatically fills in the username and password boxes at websites. If you are a Chrome fan, it is worth considering.
Passwords can be accessed at passwords.google.com in another browser, such as Firefox, Edge or Safari, but they will not automatically be inserted into the username and password box when logging into a site. Only Chrome does this.
This is where a third party password manager is better. For example, there are LastPass extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari, so if you switch browsers, you can still log into websites.
Enable Google Smart Lock Passwords
To see how Chrome handles passwords, click the menu button and select Settings.
Click Advanced at the bottom of the Settings page to access the hidden options.
Click Manage passwords to open the password manager.
Turn on the two switches to enable Chrome to remember login details and to automatically fill them in at websites. Where possible, Auto Sign-in skips the login screen entirely and you are straight into the site.
There isn’t a keyboard shortcut to show the password manager, but you can save time and effort by pressing Shift+Ctrl+B to show the bookmarks toolbar if it is not already visible, then click and drag Chrome from the the address box (where it says chrome://settings/passwords) and dropping it on the bookmarks bar. Accessing your passwords is then just one click.
Save website login details
When you log in to a website for the first time after turning on the password manager, you are prompted to save the site.
The options are Save and Never, plus Edit if you need to change something, which is rarely necessary.
Manage your passwords
Suppose you want to go to a website you frequently visit. Click the bookmark in the bookmarks bar to open chrome://settings/passwords, then click the website in your passwords list. The site opens in a new tab.
To view a password for a site, click the eye icon on the right. You are prompted to enter the password used to log into Windows. That is odd and you might expect to have to enter your Google password, but it works OK.
Find a password
A search box in the top right corner enables sites to be quickly found. Google is the master of search, so this works very well. As you type, the password list updates to display matches, so you rarely have to enter more than three or four characters to find a site.
An alternative is to go to passwords.google.com where there is an almost identical page listing your sites, usernames and passwords.
Disadvantages of Google Smart Lock Passwords
As mentioned earlier, this feature is designed for Chrome and access using other browsers is through the website only, which is awkward.
Only usernames and passwords are stored, whereas third party password managers let you securely store notes, credit card details and other information. Google Keep could be used for this, but then notes and site login details would be stored in two separate places, which is inconvenient.
Some password managers let you share passwords or even the whole password manager account. A few let you nominate someone, such as a family member, to access your password account if you are involved in a serious accident or after you die. It's not a pleasant thought, but you do need to consider this.
Some password managers can automatically change passwords on popular websites. For example, if a site is hacked and passwords are stolen, then one click can change one password or dozens.
Third party password managers are much better than Smart Lock for Passwords, however, I found a use for it as a backup.
What would happen if you lost access to your third party password manager? You would be locked out of everything everywhere! Turn on Chrome’s password manager and it will store the login details for every site you visit and log into. It basically backs up your passwords and they are then stored in two places, giving you some redundancy.