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Your options for a truly free and secure password solution that syncs with iOS and OS X are limited, but thankfully a combination of KeePassX and MiniKeePass makes it possible. With these clients, Google Drive or Dropbox The Cloud Storage Showdown - Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive & More The Cloud Storage Showdown - Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive & More The cloud storage scene has heated up recently, with a long-awaited entry by Google and a revamped SkyDrive from Microsoft. Dropbox has gone unchallenged by the major players for a long time, but that’s changed... Read More and a KeePass database the process isn’t entirely automatic, but certainly does the job.

We last took a look at KeePassX, a KeePass compatible for Mac and Linux KeePassX - Secure Password Management For Linux & OS X KeePassX - Secure Password Management For Linux & OS X Read More , in 2010 so it’s time to see what’s different about the upcoming KeePassX 2.

KeePass for Mac & Linux

KeePass 2 KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] Securely store your passwords. Complete with encryption and a decent password generator – not to mention plugins for Chrome and Firefox – KeePass just might be the best password management system out there. If you... Read More has been available for some time to Windows users, which is the platform the software was originally written for. Being Windows software, developers used Microsoft’s .NET framework when creating the app, which results in problems when it comes to Mac or Linux versions. There is a version of KeePass for Mac that uses Mono, the unofficial Mac and Linux answer to .NET, but as of writing I can’t get it working (and what I’ve read hasn’t been particularly encouraging).

KeePassX compiles natively for Linux and Mac OS X, which means no reliance on Mono. This results in a faster and more reliable application that doesn’t rely on a framework. KeePassX 2 – which provides compatibility for KeePass 2 databases – is currently in the alpha stages of development, though from experience it’s already quite stable aside from a few bugs.

You can still use the original (and stable) KeePassX 0.43, but you’ll be limited to KeePass 1 databases too. KeePass 2 databases provide many benefits, including the ability to add custom fields to entries, a history feature for tracking changes, notes, a recycle bin and much more. You can see all of the differences between the versions on this handy comparison table.

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The dangers of using alpha software apply here. Losing access to all of your passwords is far from ideal, so make sure you have suitable recovery options (like a working a phone number) on your primary email account in case the worst happens. If you’re especially concerned about loss, one option would be to download KeePassX 0.43, create a KeePass 1 database and then convert it to a KeePassX 2 database at a later date once the software is stable.

A Look At KeePassX 2

You should read out article about KeePass KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] KeePass Password Safe – The Ultimate Encrypted Password System [Windows, Portable] Securely store your passwords. Complete with encryption and a decent password generator – not to mention plugins for Chrome and Firefox – KeePass just might be the best password management system out there. If you... Read More  for a detailed explanation, but KeePass is a tool that uses a database to store private information like passwords. These databases take the form of a .KDB (KeePass 1) or .KDBX (KeePass 2) file, and KeePassX is an application that is able to open and modify these databases.

KeePassX allows you to create, manage and open these files, as well as add entries in the form of passwords, usernames and custom fields. KeePassX 2 improves on the older version with an expanded UI, though things still feel a bit “free software” and the package lacks the polish of (admittedly rather expensive) products like 1Password.

Adding a new entry via the New Entry button reveals fields for the entry title, username, a URL and two fields for your password. Clicking the ellipsis “” button will disable password masking, while the Gen. button reveals a customisable password generator. Make sure you check special characters and increase the length, if the service you are adding allows it. Hitting the Apply button will copy the password into the appropriate fields.

You can then select an entry and hit Cmd+C or use the two-finger click (right click) menu to copy username, title or any other fields you have added. For syncing purposes – whether you are using KeePassX 0.43 or 2 – you should store your database in either your Google Drive or Dropbox folders. Both of these services offer two-factor authentication What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More , so if you value your security use it.

MiniKeePass for iOS

Once you have populated your KeePass database and saved it in the cloud storage folder of your choice, you’ll need to download that particular service’s iOS app – be it Dropbox for iOS Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Ever since I went over to the Dark Side earlier this year to get my cookies and buy an iPhone, one app has been completely invaluable to me - Dropbox. In fact, I would go... Read More  or Google Drive for iOS Access, Create, and Share Your Google Drive Documents On the iPad [iOS] Access, Create, and Share Your Google Drive Documents On the iPad [iOS] Google Drive is similar to the popularly used cloud storage service, Dropbox, but Drive includes built-in document creation features that are missing in Dropbox. And though Dropbox integrates with dozens of third-party applications, Google Drive... Read More  – as well as MiniKeePass itself.

After downloading and signing in to the cloud storage service of choice, open the respective mobile app and find the .KDB or .KDBX file you just created. When prompted, choose Open in… and choose MiniKeePass when asked to do so. Once complete, you have full access to your KeePass database on your iPhone.

MiniKeePass is a great little app, but it’s not much to talk about. You can view, create or delete entries, but you cannot change the master password or automatically sync back with your PC. It’s important to remember that changes you make here won’t be reflected anywhere else, for that you’ll need to export it using the share button provided.

This can be confusing, but it doesn’t need to be. I personally only sync one-way, which means I only update my database on my Mac. This then saves to my Google Drive, which allows me to quickly open the file from Google Drive in MiniKeePass (the older file will be replaced by the new one, provided the filenames are the same). By only syncing one-way, I never have to worry about which version is most up-to-date.

Of course you can always export to Google Drive from MiniKeePass too, if you decide you’d rather do it that way.

KeePass Compared to 1Password & LastPass

Using a paid alternative to KeePass will afford you better compatibility with various devices, more polish when it comes to software and (in some cases) support when things go wrong. Using KeePassX, which itself is removed from the official KeePass project, isn’t exactly “risky” though. There are alternatives to LastPass, 1Password and KeePass, but these three are arguably the most popular solutions on the market.

KeePass is open source, which means that its security algorithms have stood the test of time so far – if you want to break it, go ahead and give it a go. 1Password also uses open source (SSL) encryption, so it too is considered transparently secure. What worries many is proprietary encryption, such as that used by LastPass. Because there’s no source code to dismantle and test, there’s no telling quite how secure LastPass really is. That’s not to say it’s insecure, but one as one commenter on this LastPass blog entry put it: “If an enemy knew everything but the password, you system should still be just as secure.”

To briefly sum up each offering:

  • 1Password is relatively expensive, and you’ll have to pay a separate fee per platform starting at $17.99 for the iOS version, and $49.99 for the Mac version. The software is polished, syncs automatically via Dropbox or iCloud and uses openSSL to encrypt its data.
  • LastPass is cheaper at $1 per month (you’ll have to pay this if you want access on your mobile, otherwise it too is free) which provides access on just about any OS you want (complete with browser extensions). It syncs automatically, but this process uses the LastPass servers and closed source proprietary encryption.
  • The KeePassX and MiniKeePass combination is free and completely open source. It syncs manually via Dropbox or Google Drive and the clients are much less polished. In addition to this, Linux and Mac users are currently stuck to the alpha version for KeePass 2 support.

KeePass 1 has stood the test of time well and KeePass 2 databases improve on what is already a very good thing. It really says something that KeePass remains one of the most prevalent password solutions out there, and thanks to projects like KeyPassX being a Mac or Linux user shouldn’t deter anyone; especially with great iPhone apps like MiniKeePass available.

Do you use a password manager to keep your computer and iPhone in sync? Which did you choose, and why? Let us know how you feel in the comments, below.

  1. asr
    July 25, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    There is another project, KyPass Companion, but it is not really advanced in features. KyPass for Android / iOS seems more advanced, and in active development.

  2. Imprinter
    March 26, 2014 at 12:07 am

    My Macbook Pro recently crashed requiring a new hard drive. Everything was supposedly backed up on my external drive but the KeePass app is gone. Whatever version I had was free, but free isn't worth it if it can't be recovered.

    • Tim B
      March 26, 2014 at 11:43 pm

      It's the KeePass database you need! It will be either .KDB or .KDBX.

      A Spotlight search for ".kdb" (without quotes) should reveal it provided your Mac has had time to index the drive. Good luck.

  3. Imprinter
    March 26, 2014 at 12:04 am

    My Macbook Pro recently crashed requiring a new hard drive. Everything was supposedly backed up on my external drive but the KeePass app is gone. Whatever version I had was free, but free isn't worth it if it can't be recovered.

  4. Pascal Sartoretti
    March 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    @Yonian : thanks for the info. I now use MiniKeePass on my iPhone and couldn't be more happy.

    For your issues with the long password : I simply allow MiniKeePass to remember my password; as I have an iPhone 5S with touch recognition, it looks like an acceptable security trade-off.

  5. Yonian
    March 17, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Earlier, I said "I wish there was a way to keep minikeepass open while switching between windows on the iPad."

    The way to do that is to open an entry. The app only requires a fresh login is you leave it on the home screen.

    I really like KeePass and MiniKeePass. Sorry for any confusion I caused.

  6. Yonian
    March 17, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Minikeepass 1.4.2 in iPad here. Yes, keyfile is supported. My only complaint is that my long passphrase is an unavoidable pain on the iPad - nothing to do with the app, of course. Everything is a pain on a tablet keyboard.

    I wish there was a way to keep minikeepass open while switching between windows on the iPad. That would compromise secrurity though, I guess. Having to re-enter the passphrase too many times tempts me to make it shorter and less complex, but I have resisted the temptation so far. :^)

  7. Pascal Sartoretti
    March 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Great article ! I am a long time KeePass and KeePassX user, syncing via DropBox, and I am looking for an iOS couterpart.

    However, being kind of paranoiac with my passwords, I use a master password AND a keyfile ; is it supported by MiniKeePass ?

  8. Klaw
    March 15, 2014 at 2:55 am

    I'm considering moving from lastpass to KeePassX. I'm using a Mac and an iPhone.

    Does anyone have any experience with syncing the database of passwords using Owncloud? I'd prefer to not transfer this kind of information via the cloud and am thinking of setting up an Owncloud server in my home.

    Thanks for the great article!

  9. Jason
    February 20, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    For those who use Dropbox for storing their password database, I highly recommend the iOS app PassDrop. It has no need to have the Dropbox app and connects directly to Dropbox with full syncing capability. I've been using it for quite a while now and it was well worth the 2 bucks.

  10. zeilk.com
    February 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    MacPass is the best option for the Mac out there.
    https://github.com/mstarke/MacPass

  11. Anonymous
    January 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    +1 for Spideroak, which is like dropbox but with files stored encrypted in the cloud and no way for Spideroak or anyone else to retrieve them if you lose your password. Spideroak does have an iOS app as well, but currently you cannot "send to" the Spideroak app from MiniKeePass on iPhone. I have asked them about it and they have said they're planning on adding it some day.

  12. Tim Tyrrell
    November 21, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Bittorrent Sync is closed source, so it is not too much better than using a cloud provider. I actually use Spideroak, which is a more secure version of Dropbox to sync my files around.

  13. Marcus
    November 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    I avoid giving my keepass file to any cloud provider by using Bittorrent Sync for decentralized sync across all my devices (ios, osx, android, linux). Not possible to push changes in keepass file from ios though.

    • Tim B
      November 4, 2013 at 2:17 am

      Wow that's bloody good way of doing it. I had actually never thought of that. Will probably investigate and/or switch to this method.

      Thanks for the tip Marcus!

    • Robbie Liu
      November 28, 2013 at 8:09 am

      I got your point here but actually it is not a big thing to worry about. Keepass database is encrypted as well, using password and/or a key file. It is theoretically unbreakable as long as you don't give out master key file and password to someone.

  14. Joel
    October 18, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Indeed Tim B, I was talking about KyPass Companion from Kyuran. It was free in beta but now that it has been released on the Mac App Store it's paid (7.99 USD with a seemingly 50% off introductory discount, meaning it will double the price soon). From my experience, this was the best KeePass implementation version for OSX thus far although it had some annoying quirks (for me, bad enough to only have it running when needed since it somehow had a gluttony for CPU cycles even when not in use). That amongst other usability issues.. I just think that it's a bit too expensive for a Mac version of something which is free on other platforms.

    Granted you can always use the alpha version of KeePassX which is free and will always be (as you said) but it's alpha. I tried it yesterday.. it's usable!

    • Tim B
      October 18, 2013 at 8:59 am

      Yeah I agree, it is a lot of money for something that is free elsewhere. I don't think charging a small fee is unreasonable, but when you consider KeePass is a free product first and foremost it's a bit of a tough pill to swallow.

      I've personally found KeePassX adequate on OS X, along with MiniKeePass on my phone. When KeePassX 2 is stable (whenever that may be!) it'll be the go-to.

  15. Joel
    October 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Kypass 1.0 just got released on the App Store and it's not free anymore. After using the latest beta and still finding lots of quirks I feel quite unease about slashing 7 eur for something that may still be a work in progress. Moreover the same developer apparently charges for updated for the iOS counterpart so I guess I will put my bet somewhere else

    • Tim B
      October 18, 2013 at 7:14 am

      I assume you're aware (though context in online comments is notoriously difficult to detect) but Kypass and KeePassX are two different things, and KeePass X will always be free (according to the developer anyway). The same goes for MiniKeePass, it seems this software will also always be free. Both of these make a great free alternative to paid KeePass database compatibles.

  16. Bruce Klutchko
    October 14, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Kypass companion for MacOS X and Kypass 3 for iOS are also good options. The iOS version cost me $3.99, but the OS X version is free, with syncing options available using DropBox and others.

    • Tim B
      October 18, 2013 at 7:04 am

      I saw these, but noticed several user reviews that weren't exactly raving. However maybe after your recommendation I'll check them out. Thanks for commenting.

  17. John
    October 10, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I've used keepass for years. Never had trouble with it. I've used the .kdbx versions on Windows, OSX, iOS, and Android. The beauty of it is that it's: (a) free; (b) truly cross-platrofm; and (c) I retain control of my encrypted file. It's not tied into a browser or hosted on a paid site (unless I choose a premium cloud service).

    • Tim B
      October 18, 2013 at 7:03 am

      Yep! And it only requires a small amount of manual effort to make it sync too. I'd love some sort of automatic syncing option, but I'd rather not pay what 1Password are asking (not that I dispute it's a quality product) when KeePass works just as well.

      Also it's worth noting I have had a total of 0 problems with the KeePass X 2 alpha (which is rare for alpha software).

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