Technical FAQ - KeePass



Technical FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the usage of KeePass.

Configuration: Installation / Integration: Security: Usage:

Info  I've saved my options, but when I reopen KeePass I get the old options. What's wrong?

KeePass supports two different locations for storing configuration information: the global configuration file in the KeePass directory and a local, user-dependent one in the user's private configuration folder. Most likely you do not have write access to your global configuration file.

For more details, see Cascading Configuration.

Info  Why doesn't the CHM help file work?

Symptoms: When trying to open the KeePass CHM help file from a remote computer or shared network drive, it's not displayed correctly (navigation aborted, ...).

Solution: See Microsoft Security Bulletin MS05-026.

Info  Where can I find more application icons for Windows shortcuts?

Application icons are icons in Windows ICO format. They can be used in Windows shortcuts and/or as file association icons. The KeePass executable contains various application icons which can be used for these purposes.

Additional application icons are available from the "Ext/Icons" directory of the KeePass source code download. Most of them, shown at right, are slight variations of the main KeePass icon.

Even more, contributed icons (by users) can be found on the plugins page.

If you have multiple KeePass databases, you can use differently colored KeePass application icons in order to distinguish them.

These icons are not included in the binary distribution because this would make the application file too large.

Application Icons

Info  How can I add more client icons for password entries?

Client icons are the icons used for password entries and groups within KeePass. Each entry can be assigned its own icon.

These icons are built-in. You cannot add/import your own icons.
Application Icons

Info  Does KeePass support a mini mode?

Yes, see KeePass 1.x Mini Mode.

Info  Why doesn't KeePass lock after Auto-Type?

I have enabled the "Use alternative auto-type method (minimize window)" and "Lock workspace when minimizing the main window" options. Why doesn't KeePass lock after auto-typing?

In this very special case, the window minimization only is a way to lose the focus, i.e. the window below comes to the foreground. The minimization is not user-initiated (it's only a side-effect of auto-type), nor a consequence of an external minimization command, therefore it is not (and should not be) affected by the automatic workspace locking handler.

If you worry about having KeePass minimized and unlocked, enable the "Automatically lock workspace after the following number of seconds" option and specify a reasonable amount.

Info  Why doesn't Auto-Type work correctly on Polish systems?

On Polish systems, the default auto-type hot key Ctrl+Alt+A conflicts with a system command and is frequently used in typing. Therefore, auto-type is often executed accidentally.

The global auto-type hot key can be changed to a different key combination in the KeePass options (see Auto-Type for details).

Info  Is Auto-Type keylogger-safe?

Is the Auto-Type feature resistant to keyloggers?

No. The Auto-Type feature has been designed in a way that it's impossible for target applications to distinguish real keys from auto-typed ones. This on the one hand has the advantage that the feature is really compatible with all applications out there. On the other hand, the auto-typed keys can of course be logged by keyloggers. If you worry about keyloggers, you have to use one of the other methods (drag&drop, copying to clipboard, KeeForm, ...).

Key  Can Auto-Type locate child controls?

No. Auto-Type only checks whether the title of the currently active top level window matches.

Browsers like Mozilla Firefox completely draw the window (all controls) themselves, without using standard Windows controls. Consequently it is technically impossible for KeePass to check whether an URL matches (methods like creating a screenshot and using optical character recognition are not reliable and secure). Also, it's impossible to check which child control currently has the focus. These problems can only be avoided by using browser integration plugins, i.e. not using auto-type at all.

The user must make sure that the focus is placed in the correct control before starting auto-type.

Info  Could you add the ... encryption algorithm to KeePass?

Only Rijndael (AES) and Twofish are supported. There are no plans to add additional algorithms for the following reasons:
  • Backward Compatibility: If new algorithms are implemented and used, older KeePass versions will not be able to read files encrypted with the new algorithms.
  • Security: Some people are not well informed about encryption algorithms and may choose a weak algorithm such as TEA, if implemented. This would compromise the security of passwords managed by KeePass.
  • Size & Functionality: KeePass is a secure password manager, not a Swiss army knife of algorithms.

Info  Why doesn't KeePass lock when Windows locks and a KeePass sub-dialog is open?

KeePass automatically tries to lock its workspace when Windows is locked, with one exception: when a KeePass sub-dialog (like the 'Edit Entry' window) is currently opened, the workspace is not locked.

To understand why this behavior makes sense, it is first important to know what happens when the workspace is locked. When locking, KeePass completely closes the database and only remembers several view parameters, like the last selected group, the top visible entry, selected entries, etc. From a security point of view, this achieves best security possible: breaking a locked workspace is equal to breaking the database itself.

Now back to the original question. Let's assume an edit dialog is open and the workstation locks. What should KeePass do now? Obviously, it's too late to ask the user what to do (the workstation is locked already and no window can't be displayed), consequently KeePass must make an automatic decision. There are several possibilities:

  • Do not save the database and lock.
    In this case, all unsaved data of the database would be lost. This not only applies to the data entered in the current dialog, but to all other entries that have been modified previously.
  • Save the database and lock.
    In this case, possibly unwanted changes are saved. Often you open files, try something, having in mind that you can just close the file without saving the changes. KeePass has an option 'Automatically save database when KeePass closes or the workspace is locked'. If this option is enabled and no sub-dialog is open, it's clear what to do: try to save the database and if successful: lock the workspace. But what to do with the unsaved changes in the sub-dialog? Should it be saved automatically, taking away the possibility of pressing the 'Cancel' button?
  • Save to a temporary location and lock.
    While this sounds the best alternative at first glance, there are several problems with it, too. First of all, saving to a temporary location could fail (for example there could be too few disk space or some other program like virus scanner could have blocked it). Secondly, saving to a temporary location isn't uncritical from a security point of view. When having to choose such a location, mostly the user's temporary directory on the hard disk is chosen (because it likely has enough free space, required rights for access, etc.). Therefore, KeePass databases could be leaked and accumulated there. It's not clear what should happen if the computer is shutdown or crashes while being locked. When the database is opened the next time, should it use the database stored in the temporary directory instead? What should happen if the 'real' database has been modified in the meanwhile (quite a realistic situation if you're carrying your database on an USB stick)?

Obviously, none of these alternatives is satisfactory. Therefore, KeePass implements the following simple and easy to understand behavior:

When Windows is locked and a KeePass sub-dialog is opened, the KeePass workspace is not locked.

This simple concept avoids all the problems above. The user is responsible for the state of the program.

Security consequence: the database is left open when Windows locks. Normally, you are the only one who can log back in to Windows. When someone else logs in (like administrator), he can't use your programs anyway. By default, KeePass keeps in-memory passwords encrypted, therefore it does not matter if Windows caches the process to disk at some time. So, your passwords are pretty safe anyway.

Note. On Windows ≤ XP, the 'Terminal Services' Windows service should be enabled. If this service is disabled, locking KeePass when Windows locks might not work. This service isn't required on newer operating systems.

Info  Printing creates a temporary file. Will it be erased securely?

KeePass creates a temporary HTML file when printing password lists and showing print previews. This file is securely erased (i.e. overwritten multiple times before being removed from the file system tree) when closing the database.

You must wait for the file being printed completely before closing KeePass (and close the print preview before closing KeePass), otherwise it could happen that the printing application blocks KeePass from deleting the file.

There is no way around the temporary file in the current printing system. If you want to write a plugin that directly sends the data to the printer, you can find a plugin development tutorial here: KeePass 2.x Plugin Development.

Info  Why KeePass 2.x resets in-memory protection options?

Important: the following describes a behavior related to in-memory protection, which has nothing to do with database encryption. All database fields are encrypted; see the Security page for details.

For all fields except the password field, in-memory protection is turned off automatically when the fields are searched or displayed as plain text.

If you want data to be in-memory protected, you additionally must turn on hiding by asterisks for the column and never search this field type. In-memory protection is useless otherwise. If you don't hide by asterisks or search, your data is clear in memory, no matter whether the in-memory protection is on or off.

Info  Why the estimated quality of a password suddenly drops?

For estimating the quality/strength of a password, KeePass not only uses statistical methods (like checking which character ranges are used, repeating characters and differences), it also has a built-in list of about 1500 most common passwords. Such most common passwords are rated down to 1/8th of their statistical rating. Thus, the estimated quality can drop to a lower value while entering a password.

Info  Can I directly edit file attachments?

No, this is not possible (exception: text files, see working with large texts). In order to edit attachments, you need to save them to a (temporary) file, edit it using an external application, import it back to KeePass as attachment, and finally delete the temporary file.

There will no feature be implemented that automates these steps, because of security problems. To see the problems, let's assume that KeePass would support editing attachments. When you click a button, KeePass would save the attachment to a file and open it using its associated external application. When the external application is closed, KeePass would import the temporary file and delete it securely. But what happens when KeePass is closed before the external application? KeePass cannot delete the file because it's eventually locked by the external application. Theoretically KeePass could tell the user this fact before closing, but what to do when the computer shuts down? Here, there's no time left to ask the user what to do. The temporary file would have been leaked, i.e. left unencryptedly on disk, which is obviously very bad.

One could argue that the leakage would only be temporary: at the next start, KeePass could scan the temporary directory for remaining files and delete them. Anyway, the files would be freely accessible (unencrypted) by all other applications during a complete computer shutdown and boot process. If you don't start KeePass on this computer ever again, the file is leaked forever. As KeePass is designed to be portable, i.e. may be securely used on many computers, this temporary leakage is unacceptable.

Info  How to store and work with large amounts of (formatted) text?

There is no direct support for storing and working with large formatted texts.