LastPass browser extensions are slow

LastPass is slow. It’s hard to overlook.

If you’re using LastPass, I want you to keep using it! You need a secure way to keep track of passwords and confidential information. For most people, the “best” program is the one that you already use. I don’t want anyone to read this and get excited and then have something go wrong and lose your passwords and suffer embarrassing hacks and have your identity stolen and wind up homeless and alone. Wouldn’t you rather use LastPass, even if it’s a little slow, rather than have that happen to you? Of course you would.

Okay, now keep that in mind while I complain.

I’ve been using LastPass, and recommending it to everyone, for more than ten years. For the first time, I’m worried about it. Not about its security – the design makes it effectively impenetrable. But about its performance, and about the future of the company.

The Chrome extension for LastPass is slow. It’s slow to load. It’s slow to respond the first time you click on it. It’s slow to fill in fields on websites. There’s a delay of one to several seconds for just about everything I ask it to do.

The first click on the extension icon is especially problematic: when I open Chrome the first time and browse to a website that needs a password and click on LastPass, I might be waiting 10-15 seconds before the dropdown menu appears. I have a monster computer on my desk – fast processor, 32Gb of RAM, SSDs. I can restart Windows in 10-15 seconds. There’s no excuse for LastPass to respond that slowly. It’s just badly written.

I don’t think I’m alone. There are scattered complaints about slowdowns caused by the LastPass extension in Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. I’ve studied Chrome’s Task Manager (click Shift-Esc in Chrome – it’s separate from the Windows Task Manager and darned interesting if you like that sort of thing). The LastPass extension uses CPU cycles when you click or do a search or use it to fill a form, but the CPU and memory usage don’t seem excessive.

But it’s slow.

There is some uncertainty about the future of LastPass. LogMeIn bought LastPass in 2015, then left it mostly alone, other than some unwelcome price increases. LastPass got a major update in March 2019; after nearly a year, I still don’t like the UI changes, and I think that’s when performance took a nosedive.

Now LogMeIn is being acquired by private equity companies, in a deal expected to close this summer. So far, nothing has changed, and perhaps the new owners will be good stewards and only make LastPass better. But the acquiring companies reportedly have a record of, yes, milking existing customers to get a quick revenue boost, then spinning off profitable divisions. I’m old and cynical and I fear the worst.

What can you do to speed up LastPass?

I don’t know if this really makes any difference. Maybe I believe in it because I want it to work. Test it and let me know.

There are two checkboxes in the LastPass settings that I unchecked. It feels like LastPass is faster.

Click on the LastPass icon in the upper corner of Chrome, then click on Extension Preferences.

LastPass - Chrome extension settings menu / Extension Preferences

Click on Notifications on the left.

The first box I unchecked is Show Notifications (via Chrome’s Toolbar icon). If I understand correctly, when that box is checked, LastPass checks the Vault every time you load a new web page and displays the number of matching entries on the icon in the upper right.

The second box I unchecked is Show autofill icon in fields. Again, as I understand it, when that box is checked, LastPass looks at the entire page for login and password fields, then overlays an icon at the right of each field. You can click on the overlay icon for a dropdown menu of LastPass options.

My guess is that both of those features require LastPass to do work every time you load a new web page. They’re not all that useful. In particular, the icon in the login fields is often nonfunctional or overwritten by something from the website.

I can’t tell you for sure that it made a difference to turn those off, but it made me feel better, and I sorta kinda think that Chrome and LastPass are more responsive now.

What can you do to replace LastPass?

If you’re fed up with LastPass for whatever reason, try BitWarden. BitWarden’s interface is similar to LastPass, but with less bling and maybe the better for it. It uses the same model for security. BitWarden can be installed on multiple devices and keep all of them up to date by syncing an encrypted blob. You can unlock the vault with a master password, but BitWarden has zero access to your data. A hacker would get nothing of yours from an attack on LastPass or BitWarden.

BitWarden is a small company, but it passed a third-party security audit. Its software is open source. They’re the current darling of the tech community. If you’re switching from LastPass, it’s possible to export your LastPass Vault and import it into BitWarden with only a modest amount of cleanup afterward.

There are many other reliable password managers out there. You might find features in 1Password or Dashlane that make you happy. I don’t have enough personal experience to push one in particular. Choose one and go forth and prosper.

The important thing is to use some system for password management. Use complex passwords. Always use different passwords for every service. Be careful out there!