Bitwarden is a budget-friendly password manager that’s built on open-source software and zero-knowledge encryption.

In this article, we walk you through how to set up Bitwarden, how to use it and how you can maximize its features for your organization.

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How to set up and use Bitwarden

  1. Decide on a Bitwarden subscription.
  2. Set up the Bitwarden app and browser extension.
  3. Use Bitwarden.

Decide on a Bitwarden subscription

First, you’ll need to decide which Bitwarden subscription is right for you. Bitwarden offers two subscription tiers: Personal and Business.

Figure A

Bitwarden Personal subscriptions.
Bitwarden Personal subscriptions. Image: Bitwarden

For Personal, there are Free, Premium, and Families subscription options available. Free and Premium accounts allow for sharing vault items with two users, while the Families plan allows up to six. The Business tier has a Teams starter plan for up to 10 users and an Enterprise plan that allows for unlimited users. For more information on Bitwarden’s pricing, you can view our full Bitwarden review here.

To start, I would suggest going for Bitwarden’s Free version first. It gives you a taste of Bitwarden’s take on password management without cost. It also offers storage for an unlimited number of passwords and can be used on unlimited devices.

Set up the Bitwarden app and browser extension

Now that we’ve decided on a plan, it’s time to set up a Bitwarden account. Clicking on the Free tier within Bitwarden’s plans page will take you to its account creation portal (Figure B).

Figure B

Creating a Bitwarden account.
Creating a Bitwarden account. Image: Bitwarden

Fill in the required details and type in your master password. This master password will serve as your main key to unlocking all the passwords and credentials in your vault. Technically, this is the only password you’ll have to create on your own.

After filling in all the required fields, you’ll be redirected to Bitwarden’s web application or Web Vault. Once there, Bitwarden will ask you to verify your email address. After verifying, you will then have an official Bitwarden account!

While Bitwarden’s web app is serviceable, downloading both the desktop application and browser extension will help you get the most out of the service. You can download the desktop app on their official website as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Downloading the Bitwarden desktop app.
Downloading the Bitwarden desktop app. Image: Bitwarden

You should also download Bitwarden’s official browser extension. In this case, we’re using Bitwarden’s Chrome extension, which can be found on the Chrome Web Store (Figure D).

Figure D

Bitwarden Chrome extension.
Bitwarden Chrome extension. Image: Bitwarden

Upon installing both, you’ll be asked to input your login credentials and master password. Once you’re in, you can officially start using Bitwarden as your password manager. Here’s a look at Bitwarden’s desktop application (Figure E).

Figure E

Bitwarden’s main dashboard.
Bitwarden’s main dashboard. Image: Bitwarden

Using Bitwarden

As a password manager, Bitwarden stores all your login information inside the encrypted vault. To add a login, just click on the + at the bottom of the dashboard and it will open a form where you can add a new login item.

Figure F

Adding new items.
Adding new items. Image: Bitwarden

The more traditional way to add logins is whenever you create a new account online. This is best done through Bitwarden’s browser extension as it offers you easier access to the service while on a particular site (Figure F).

In this example, I’ll be making a new account on Udemy. When creating a new account, you can use Bitwarden to generate a random password that’s configured to parameters of your choosing. You can access this by clicking on the Generator tab at the bottom of the extension (Figure G).

Figure G

Generating a password.
Generating a password. Image: Bitwarden

By default, Bitwarden generates a password of 14 characters, but it can be set to have up to 128. You can set it to be a random password with digits, uppercase and lowercase characters and special symbols. You can also have it create passphrases instead — which some have said are more secure than a typical password.

Once you have your login credentials set, you can go to the Tab (Figure H)button and click Add a login to add the new Udemy account to your vault .

Figure H

Add a login.
Add a login. Image: Bitwarden

With this step, you’ve now stored your first password using Bitwarden! Now that you’ve learned how to store passwords using Bitwarden, the next step is to set up two-step authentication.

In Bitwarden, this is called a two-step login. This makes your Bitwarden account more secure by requiring you to verify your login with another device. This can be through an SMS code, email, an authenticator app and others.

To set this up within Bitwarden’s desktop application, go to Account | Two-step login. It will then redirect you to Bitwarden’s web app and take you through the process.

If you have any issues using Bitwarden, you can visit the support page on its official website and send out a ticket. It also has a help center with an extensive collection of guides and articles regarding its service.

The best ways to use Bitwarden for your business

Across all Bitwarden subscriptions, users get their open-source platform, zero-knowledge encryption, unlimited password storage and other core features. On top of that, Bitwarden comes with highlight features that can be useful for you and your business.

Send encrypted files and text

Bitwarden comes with Bitwarden Send, its encrypted file-sharing tool that allows users and teams to quickly share information with other people in a more secure manner. Bitwarden Send supports transmitting both encrypted files and text. It also allows users to set auto-deletion times and expiration dates to ensure that any transmitted information doesn’t stick around too long.

This is a great way for organizations and businesses to share sensitive data such as contracts, financial documents and other important information.

Check overall vault health

Bitwarden gives users access to Vault Health Reports. These are a variety of report types that check for exposed or reused passwords, unsecure websites, inactive two-step logins and exposure to data breaches.

These vault health reports can help leaders and business owners get a bird’s eye view of their organizations’ general password health.

Easily set emergency access

Finally, Bitwarden allows users to set up designated trusted emergency contacts that can open user vaults in cases of emergency. Conveniently integrated via email, this is handy for instances where an unforeseen event occurs and an organization needs access to specific logins tied to a user.

How to ensure you’re maximizing Bitwarden capabilities

While Bitwarden’s base features offer heightened security for your passwords, there are a few steps you can take to maximize its capabilities.

  • Set vault timeout rules: These rules will either lock or log you out of your vault after a given amount of time. This protects your vault from being exposed to bad actors, especially if you work in remote locations or co-working spaces.
  • Look into Bitwarden’s Teams Starters and Enterprise plans: Check out its business-focused features, such as support for multiple users, event and audit logs, user groups, custom roles and more. These plans may be a better fit for your business, depending on its structure or particular circumstances.
  • Utilize Bitwarden’s import tool: This lets you import data from other password managers to your Bitwarden vault. It saves you time migrating over different login items as Bitwarden is able to easily ingest password files and data from other password managers.

Recommended alternative password managers

If Bitwarden doesn’t fit what you’re looking for, I’ve listed alternative password managers that could be a better pick. In particular, three options you should consider are 1Password, Keeper and Dashlane.

The 1Password logo.
Image: 1Password

If security is a top concern, 1Password should be on your list. It offers protection against phishing attacks, alerts users of login vulnerabilities and automatically locks vaults after a set amount of time. It even has an impressive portfolio of third-party security audits that certify its claims.

Logo for Keeper.
Image: Keeper

For businesses, Keeper can be a good pick. It has subscription plans for small businesses up to big enterprises and offers customized bundles depending on a customer’s needs. Feature-wise, Keeper comes with built-in folders, subfolders and shared team folder support that bigger companies will appreciate.

Dashlane logo.
Image: Dashlane

For users who want an all-around password manager, Dashlane is an excellent choice. It has an intuitive interface that’s easy to use, a dark web monitor that scans for compromised credentials and a fairly sleek design that doesn’t look too technical. It even has an included VPN for an additional layer of protection.

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This is your go-to resource for the latest news and tips on the following topics and more, XaaS, AWS, Microsoft Azure, DevOps, virtualization, the hybrid cloud, and cloud security. Delivered Mondays and Wednesdays