"Desktop app" vs. "Web vault"

The PDFs avail for learning BW apparently don’t distinguish between Desktop and Web Vault differences. Can I assume that Desktop is “self-contained” on my home PC but Web Vault needs internet access ?

Also what is one best introductory source for self-education of BW ?

Bewildered Bob

Can you point to the PDFs you are using to learn from? Bitwarden’s Help Center routinely distinguishes between the Web Vault client, the Desktop app client, the Browser extension clients, and the Mobile app clients.

No, that is not accurate. All Bitwarden client apps need internet access to allow you to log in to your vault, to make any changes to your vault (e.g., adding, deleting, or modifying items), and to sync changes that were made using other apps. The exception is that for any client app that is logged in but locked, you have the option to unlock the app after disconnecting your device from the internet, which will allow you to use the app in read-only mode (i.e., you will not be able to make any changes to the vault contents).

Most users use either a browser extension or a mobile app as their main Bitwarden app. The Desktop app is helpful when you need a larger window (e.g., if you are manually editing or organizing vault items). The Web Vault is mostly used for account management tasks, such as the following:

  • Renewing, upgrading, or canceling subscriptions.
  • Changing your master password, account encryption key, KDF settings, or 2-factor authentication.
  • Setting up Emergency Access.
  • Defining or modifying domain rules (equivalent domains).
  • Importing vault data, or creating transferrable exports that are password-protected.
  • Running Vault Health Reports.
  • Performing bulk move or deletion on multiple selected vault items.


This webpage has a list of learning resources:

I would highlight a few of the resources listed there:

1 Like

Hi GRB: you may have responded to someone else’s post - my question was NOT abt “generator function” but merely for a simple explanation of difference between WEB VAULT and DESKTOP APP.

If I understand your previous post correctly, using FF “browser extension” is minimum requirement for BW use. Either Web Vault or Desktop app is optional for using additional functions - ** TRUE ??**

Still Bewildered Bob

Does the response above not provide this explanation?

There is no “requirement”, I was just advising you that most users work primarily with either the browser extension or the mobile app. This is because these two apps are optimized for interacting with the online login forms where you need to supply the login credentials that you have stored in Bitwarden. You are not required to use a browser extension or mobile app, but if most of your stored logins are for online accounts on various websites, then it will be more cumbersome (and somewhat less secure) for you to exclusively use the Web Vault or Desktop app.

I have answered this above. One exception may be if you have a large number of passwords required to run desktop apps or to open encrypted files stored on your desktop, then the Bitwarden Desktop App may serve better for this purpose than the browser extension.

If there is something specific that you are confused about, please ask a question.

I may not have explained clearly what the current config is:

(1) home PC running Windows - (no “mobile app” use)
(2) Firefox and Google Chrome browsers access MANY websites
(3) no encrypted files (i think)

So if I understand your explanation correctly FF BROWSER EXTENSION shd be my first choice (“less cumbersome and more secure”). If so, do I care if vault is stored on my PC or on BW equipment ? Also apparently there is no conflict if Web Vault is also installed - TRUE ?? Thanx.

Yes, and you should also install the Chrome browser extension, since you said that you use the Chrome browser, as well.

The main storage location for your vault database is always going to be in the database hosted on Bitwarden’s cloud servers (unless you are using a “self-hosted” solution, which you are not, and which I would not recommend for you).

Each installation of a Bitwarden “client” app (e.g., browser extension, Desktop app, Web Vault app, mobile app, or CLI) works independently of any other client app installation (with one minor exception — if you want to use biometric unlock functionality in a browser extension, then the browser extension must communicate with a Bitwarden Desktop app running on the same device). Whenever you log in on a specific installation of a specific Bitwarden client app on a specific device, that particular instance of Bitwarden will download a copy of your encrypted vault data from Bitwarden’s cloud servers; this vault copy will be cached on your local device until the corresponding client app is logged out. For example, if you are simultaneously logged in through the Web Vault, Desktop app, FireFox browser extension, and Chrome browser extension, then your PC will have four separate cached copies of the encrypted vault.

Whenever you use one of the Bitwarden client apps to make a change to your vault (e.g., add a new login item), then the change is first transmitted to Bitwarden’s servers (to update the cloud database) and also saved in the local vault cache for that Bitwarden app. Subsequently, the cloud database is synchronized with all other instances of Bitwarden that are logged in, updating each cached copy of the vault data.

Because each running instance of Bitwarden has its own vault cache, and because Bitwarden keeps all copies of the vault synchronized, you don’t have to worry about conflicts. From the user’s point of view, it looks like each running instance of Bitwarden (whether a browser extension, Desktop app, Web Vault, etc.) is using the same vault — and you shouldn’t really have to worry about exactly where & how the vault is stored.

GRB: Thanx for the thorough explanation of an apparently very sophisticated pgm. Just reading the materials avail gives no clue abt its complexity. Its designers must have worked long & hard implementing BW. Absolutely amazing that it is a freebie !!

Since I am a card-carrying certified BW “newbie” does it make sense NOT to install it on one of the 2 browsers until I’m 101% certain that I understand it and can “cut the cord” to both existing browsers ?


In my opinion, this does not make sense. If you are using both of your browsers (FireFox and Chrome) to log in to your various online accounts, then you should have browser extensions installed on both of these browsers (and you should disable the browsers’ native password saving and autofill functionality).

You learn by doing. If you get stumped, or if you’re wondering if there is a more efficient way to accomplish something that you have been doing, just ask here (in a new thread). At you convenience, you may also want to peruse some of the learning resources that I had suggested above.

2 posts were split to a new topic: “Unable to autofill selected item” error