One of the most important steps in creating a great website is choosing the right domain name. Popular domain names go quickly — so, once you've found a great fit for your site, use a domain name search to make sure it's not taken, or pay the asking price if the owner is looking to sell.

Finding an available name isn't enough, however, since you also need to register your domain name with a domain name system (DNS) registrar. In some cases, your registrar can also be your web hosting service, but this isn't required — you can choose to host and register your site with different providers.

Free Download: 77 Examples of Brilliant Web Design Informed by ICANN policy, DNS registrars keep records of all currently registered domain names — and collect fees to ensure your domain name remains properly registered and active.

But what happens if you want to change your domain registrar? Maybe they've suddenly increased their prices, or your site is taking more time to load. Maybe you've found a better deal somewhere else and prefer to consolidate multiple domains under a single DNS registrar.

No matter the reason, we've got you covered. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to transfer a domain.

1. Update your contact information.

Both the registrar you're leaving and your new DNS registry provider will need to contact you during the transfer process. As a result, it's critical that your contact information is up to date.

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Log in to your current registrar's control panel and check your account details. Make sure your name, phone number, and physical address are all correct — any missing information could cause the transfer to take longer or be rejected.

2. Set up your email sending domain name.

Your domain registrar often provides email service tied to your domain name — this lets you send emails to and from addresses like you@yoursite.com and can help grow your brand or business.

But, when you transfer to another registrar, these email accounts are typically deactivated which potentially leaves you out of the loop. Make sure you have a backup email address ready to go before starting the transfer process.

3. Unlock your domain.

Look for the “unlock domain” option in your registrar's control panel. Every provider is different, but you'll often find it under the “Domain” or “Security” section of the main account screen.

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Domains are locked by default to prevent accidental changes or deletion. You may be able to unlock your domain with a single click, or you may need to request manual unlocking from your registrar directly.

Once your domain is unlocked, you're able to transfer the name to another registrar.

4. Request an authorization code.

To transfer your domain, you'll need an authorization code. This code serves as the bridge between your old registrar and your new provider and must be supplied within five days of your request, typically by email. Some registrars permit auto-generation of codes directly from their control panels.

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5. Make sure your domain is eligible for a transfer.

Per ICANN rules, if you've created or transferred your domain name in the last 60 days, it's not eligible for a transfer. Do the math before making the switch to ensure you're not wasting your time.

6. Create an account with your new registrar.

Next, head to your new registrar and make an account. Find its transfer service page and enter the domain name you're transferring. The “www” isn't required — simply enter the name of your domain and its suffix, such as .com, .net, .info, etc.

7. Enter the authorization code.

Enter the authorization code that was provided by your previous registrar. Double-check the code and make sure you entered it exactly as provided — if the code doesn't match, your transfer won't be successful and you may need to start over.

8. Authorize the domain transfer.

Once you enter the authorization code, you'll be contacted by both your old registrar and your new provider. You'll be asked to confirm your contact details and officially approve the transfer. Ensure the contact info you've provided to both registrars is correct and be prepared to answer questions about why you're leaving your current service.

9. Pay for your domain transfer.

Now you'll need to pay for your domain name transfer, typically using a credit card or online service like PayPal. Your new provider may require you to pay for a year of service, but it's also possible to find promotions that offer the first year for free.

10. Finalize the domain transfer.

Once the domain is released by your original provider, your new registrar will need time to configure your domain and servers. This typically takes anywhere from a few days to a week. During this time, your website should remain accessible from your previous registrar.

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11. Decide on a public or private domain.

Some providers allow you to obscure public WHOIS information for your website. When searched, your website will return contact information for your registrar rather than your personal details. This is useful if you're running a business out of your home or don't want your phone number displayed, however, private domains are more expensive than public domains.

12. Cancel your previous service.

Don't deactivate your old registrar service until your new account is running and your domain is fully transferred. Once you've confirmed that everything works, cancel your old service to ensure you're no longer being charged.

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Originally published Feb 28, 2020 5:50:51 PM, updated March 31 2020

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