1Password for Beginners

Why it’s a good idea to use unique passwords

I don’t think I need to convince anyone that passwords are annoying. It’s hard to remember them, so everyone uses the same password for all of their accounts. You know this, I know this. But hackers also know this.

Enter password managers

Password managers make it easy to remember a single password, and still have long, unique passwords on all of your accounts. How is this possible? You use just one password to unlock your secure password “vault.” From your vault, you can quickly fill out login forms on all of your devices.

1Password

1Password enables you to sync your passwords across all of your devices using the same password vault. It also has browser extensions that allow you to automatically fill out passwords in your browser. It’s easy to use. 1Password is relatively inexpensive — $2.99 each month. (If you’re interested in a cheaper alternative, consider Bitwarden. Check out my Bitwarden guide.)

Sign up

Go to 1Password.com and hit the “Try 1Password free” button in the top right corner of the page. On the signup page, type in your email. You should receive an email from 1Password (1password@agilebits.com) with a link. Click the link to confirm that you own the email address and fill out the form.

Create your password vault

Click “New Vault,” and name it. This will be where you store your passwords.

A user creating an empty password vault within their 1Password interface.

Download 1Password

1Password supports Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android devices. Click your name at the top right, and go to “Get the Apps.” With the links on the left, download the app for your devices. Use the instructions on the right to set up 1Password for your device. (Alternatively download 1Password here for your devices. For mobile devices, you can also search for 1Password in the Google Play store or the App Store. While logged into the website, click here for your QR information.)

Logging into the app

Click “Sign in to your 1Password account”, and then click “Sign in” on the next screen. Drag the window over your QR code to scan it. This will automatically fill your account details within 1Password. Alternatively, you can type in your account information by hand. Finally, enter your master password. (Again, it’s the only way to get into your vault, so don’t forget it!)

An animation of a 1Password user typing their password to unlock their password vault.

Going full speed with browser extensions

1Password is a strong standalone application, but it becomes truly powerful once you use browser extensions to auto-fill forms online. You can use the 1Password extension on Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer. You can download 1Password extension for your browser here.

A screenshot of the 1Password browser extension icon.
1Password browser icon
An animation of a user saving a password to their password vault, using the 1Password browser extension.
An animation of a user automatically filling out a login form with a previously saved password, using the 1Password browser extension.

Saving and changing passwords

1Password will automatically invite you to save passwords to your vault once you enter your credentials with the browser extension enabled. But the real benefit of 1Password is to allow you to generate long, randomized passwords that you don’t need to remember. Consider changing the passwords on the websites you visit most often, and updating them in 1Password. The application will offer to update your login information after you change your password.

The main downside of 1Password

Once you’ve set up 1Password, it can be very annoying to log in without it (e.g., if you want to log in on your friend’s computer). If you know you’re going to frequently use a password on a computer that does not have your 1Password information, you may want to commit the password to memory rather than randomizing it.

Extras!

Create logins manually
You can manually create logins by opening 1Password, and clicking “File” > “New Item” > “Login.” From there, you can fill out credentials manually.

Screenshot of a user creating a new login entry from their 1Password application by clicking “File” and then navigating to “New Entry” and then “Login”
Screenshot of a user creating new entries in their 1Password database from the application by clicking “File” and “New Item” under the dropdown menu.

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Writing about security for journalists, as well as beginners. Principal researcher at @freedomofpress. freedom.press/training

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Martin Shelton

Martin Shelton

Writing about security for journalists, as well as beginners. Principal researcher at @freedomofpress. freedom.press/training