Password Manager: KeePass Password Safe Review

by JL Beeken on 2-17-2008

KeePass Password SafeHow do you manage your passwords? I used to keep mine in EverNote, in Firefox and printed on 15 pages in a binder. There’s a much easier way and it’s called KeePass.

It’s free. Download and open KeePass Portable. You might as well. This way you can also keep a backup of it on a USB key and carry it around with you. If your house disappears for some reason, you’ll still have a copy. If you disappear while you’re out, there’s still a copy at home that your executors might need.

Setting Your Master Password

When you open the program and click on File/New you’ll see this screen:

New Database, KeePass Password Safe

Here you enter your Master Password. This is the key to the entire KeePass vault and the only computer password you’ll have to remember ever again. You can also create a key-file that you have to enter each time you want to get into your database.

Let’s say you just create a Master Password. It can be as long as you want it, like a whole sentence, but you do have to remember it. Worst case scenario: you’re out, you lose your USB key, a malicious spirit picks it up, has nothing better to do than hack into it. (If they can.) If that makes you paranoid, you might also want to make a Key File. Barring all that, you’re good with one Master Password you keep to yourself. You can change it whenever you want, so if you’re traveling in dangerous waters… (see How To Change KeePass Master Password)

The Main Interface

After that you’re into the main KeePass screen.

Main Screen, KeePass Password Safe

It has a list of default categories on the left but you can change those to whatever you want by clicking on Edit/Add Password Group or Add Password Subgroup. And you can drag-and-drop your entries from one category to another so not to worry about all that. Start by clicking on New Entry.

Add Entry, KeePass Password Safe

Pick the desired category from Group and put in the Title. To start, you have to put in the username and password you’re already using unless you’re starting a brand-new entry. Also the URL. And any notes you have for this item. As you can see here, it gives a default password but just type over that with the one you’re presently using. The colored-bar underneath will show you how secure your password is on a scale of red to green. Here’s an example of not-a-good password:

Choosing a Password, KeePass Password Safe

Nevertheless, just start by putting in what you have.

Edit Entry, KeePass Password Safe

On the main screen it will begin to build a list:

Main Screen, KeePass Password Safe

Changing Your Passwords

What you might want to do is make a better password. So double-click on the URL and it will take you directly to that webpage. Commonly, there’s two boxes for signing in, one for username and one for password. Your cursor may be already be in the top box automatically. If not, put it there.

Then right-click anywhere along that KeePass entry, as shown above, and click Perform Auto-Type. I’ve tried Ctrl+V but it doesn’t work. It’s quicker to use the hotkey combination and it’s actually Ctrl+Alt+A by default and you can change that under Options. If that doesn’t work, just use “Perform Auto-Type”.

Perform Auto-Type, KeePass Password Safe

Your username and password will be automatically typed into the boxes. It even does Enter for you and goes to the next page. I’ve only seen a few cases where Auto-Type doesn’t work, in which case you can drag-and-drop or copy and paste. The clipboard is set, by default, to clear itself in 10 seconds.

Find the place in the website where you’re allowed to change your password.  If they ask for your old password, put that in first, then come back to KeePass and click on the icon to the right of the lower password field.

Choosing a Password, KeePass Password Safe

It will open this box for generating a new password:

Password Generator, KeePass Password Safe

Pick your options at the top and then click the Generate button. The idea, of course, is to get a password that’s in the green zone. In this example, it’s using upper-case, lower-case, and digits, 20 characters long. Some websites will only allow up to 8 or 10 characters so you may have to include spaces and special characters to get green-zone security.

Once you have a good password, click the Accept button and it will automatically be transferred to your Edit screen. From there, make the changes at the website. Repeat this process with all your other old passwords. Enter any new ones the same way.

You can also use this screen to test the security-level of your Master Password.

I also use KeePass for my serial numbers and credit cards. No passwords required, so I just put a description in the Title and the information in the Notes field.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

JW 1-18-2008 at 12:17 PM

Just wanted to say thanks for all your helpful articles – they really are appreciated.

I’m slowly getting me locations cleaned up – my next project is to sort out photos.

Thanks again

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Myrna 2-23-2008 at 2:18 PM

Hi JL,

Thanks for all the great info you are passing on to us “would-be” computer non-experts and genealogy.

Now, having given praise first, I need to ask a question about the KeePass program.

Does this program only keep track of your passwords and NOT fill in the blanks when the password screens come up? I ask because after reading the help fill for the program, I cannot figure out an easy way to fill in the blanks. If you have to open the program, sign in with your main password, then find the password, click on *fill clipboard with userid* then paste to blank, click on *fill clipboard with password* then paste to blank, it takes WAY too long. I know, I am lazy but I really need an easier way to fill in the blanks.

Thanks again for your jlog – I love it.

Reply

JL 2-23-2008 at 4:19 PM

Only in rare instances should you need to use copy & paste. Most windows will accept “AutoType”. Try this first. Open KeePass, click on the URL you want and then click the hotkey combination for AutoType which is Ctrl + Shift + A, by default. If that doesn’t work, do it this way: Open KeePass, click on the URL you want to go to. Click to open KeePass again, right-click anywhere along the entry you have highlighted and click “AutoType”. In either case, make sure your cursor is already in the User ID box on the webpage, ready to go. It usually is.

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