Three Questions Regarding Bitwarden Desktop, Browser and Server

Question 1:
Can a Bitwarden Desktop Client Application, e.g. OSX or LINUX, run WITHOUT setting up an account on either Bitwarden’s own servers or a self-hosted server like Vaultwarden? That is, do Bitwarden clients maintain a secured local copy of the password database?

Question 2:
Do Bitwarden browser extensions require the corresponding Bitwarden Desktop Application (like 1Password)? Or do they require an account on a Bitwarden or Self-Hosted server?

Question 3:
Does having a Bitwarden server account allow new passwords created and entered on one client, to be automatically distributed and synchronized with my other clients?

Hello @TCB - welcome to the community forums.

To answer your questions in order:

  1. No. All Bitwarden clients depend on a connection to a Bitwarden server somewhere.

  2. No, the browser extensions don’t require you to also install the desktop app, unless you want to enable biometrics for unlocking your vault.

  3. Yes. All clients sync automatically to the instance of Bitwarden server that you login to, and you can also force sync on demand.

I hope that helps. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out Bitwarden’s excellent user documentation at:

On macOS, you have to install the Bitwarden app since the browser extension for Safari is only distributed as part of the app. Except for enabling biometrics, you don’t have to use it at all, though.

1 Like

Am a bit confused here.
Bitwarden Docs claim I can use Bitwarden Client offline, e.g. in an air-gapped environment disconnected from a Bitwarden or Self-hosted server.
If this is the case then Bitwarden Client must in fact hold a copy of my passwords…yes?

You will have to login first to obtain your encrypted Vault, and then it can only be accessed in read-only mode using your password to generate a decryption key.

Do you mean

  1. I can login into my local Bitwarden Desktop Application and access my passwords from a local vault without the intervention of any Bitwarden/Vaultwarden server.?


  1. I must login first to a server (Bitwarden’s or self-hosted) before I can access the vault of passwords on my Local Desktop application?

No, like I said, you ALWAYS have to be able to connect to the server if you want to download a copy of your vault. Once it is on your device, then it may be possible to work with a read-only copy if you are offline, at least until you logout again or your device’s session expires.

The link to the help documentation I provided explains it all very well.