1Password for Beginners

Passwords are often the only thing standing between a hacker and your online accounts. This guide will introduce you to using 1Password to create strong, unique passwords. As a bonus, we’ll show how password managers can also help you save time when filling out login screens and online forms. It’s an easy way to make browsing the web easier, faster, and more secure.

Why it’s a good idea to use unique passwords

If you use the same password everywhere, a hacker only needs to get your password once in order to break into many of your online accounts. The number of massive data breaches keeps growing by the day.

Imagine if an attacker used your single, easy-to-remember password to access your health care records, your home address, credit card numbers, or your social security number. To minimize the damage from a breach, you should use unique passwords on each account. But it can be a challenge to remember each password.

Enter password managers

A few password managers are usually recommended by security specialists, including Bitwarden, KeePassXC, and 1Password. I wrote a guide on Bitwarden for beginners, as well as KeePassXC for beginners. For now I am focusing on 1Password, perhaps the most user-friendly password manager recommended by specialists.


Sign up

During the signup process, you will see a screen that says “Meet your secret Account Key.” Write down or store the account key somewhere safe. If you lose it, your account cannot be easily recovered, so be sure it’s somewhere you can find it.

Next you’ll create the master password that unlocks your password database. This is the only password that you need to remember. It needs to be a *really* good one, so it’s much more difficult to guess.

Consider using a long password with upper- and lower-cased letters, numbers, and symbols. Alternatively, use a passphrase — a phrase that only you are likely to remember. Unusual passphrases can help to make them more memorable. Take national security whistleblower, Edward Snowden’s example: “Margaret Thatcher is 110% sexy.” It’s long, has upper- and lower-cased letters, numbers, symbols, and spaces. And it’s hard to forget. The more random your passphrase is, the better.

To log in, you need both your master password and your account key, which is tied to your device. This combination helps to lock remote attackers out of your account.

Create your password vault

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

Download 1Password

1Password will automatically sync your passwords across each device after you log in. Open it! If you can’t find 1Password on your machine, you can also find the file here:
Windows: C:/Program Files/1Password
Mac: Username/Applications/1Password

Logging into the app

Now you can log in on the app. You can use the same login process on your mobile device.

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

Going full speed with browser extensions

A screenshot of the 1Password browser extension icon.
1Password browser icon

After you download the extension, you should see it in your browser. Look for the 1Password icon (above) which normally appears to the right of your browser’s search bar. You can access your vault from there.

An animation of a user saving a password to their password vault, using the 1Password browser extension.

Try logging into any page you normally visit. 1Password will pop up, and ask if you’d like to save your credentials. You can make adjustments, and then click “Save Login” to add the new login to your 1Password vault.

Once your browser extensions are installed, you can use shortcuts to automatically open 1Password or auto-fill login credentials. You can auto-fill using this keyboard shortcut in your browser.
Windows users: Ctrl + \ (control, backslash)
Mac users: Command + \ (command, backslash)

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

When you create a new account online, 1Password will also offer to add the credentials to your vault. Be sure to use the application to randomize your passwords when possible.

The main downside of 1Password


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”

Save and fill information beyond passwords.
Just like with passwords, you can save and fill other types of information in your browser, such as credit cards. To find other types of data you can easily fill out with 1Password, open the application and go to “File” > “New Item.”

Screenshot of a user creating new entries in their 1Password database from the application by clicking “File” and “New Item” under the dropdown menu.

You’re up to speed with 1Password. I hope this has been helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out here, or on Twitter at @mshelton.

Updated March 8, 2021.



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

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Martin Shelton

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