Transferring Domain Names

Monday, July 16, 2012

If you own a domain name, that means you registered that name with a registrar – a provider of domain name registration services.  But there are probably thousands of registrars, and some of them might be partnered with your web hosting provider.  In many cases, our web hosting customers prefer to transfer their domain name to our domain registration division to consolidate their services in one place.  So begins the process of a domain transfer.

What is a domain transfer?

A domain name transfer involves moving your domain name, which you already have ownership of, from one domain registration provider to another. This does not necessarily change your web hosting provider.

What needs to happen first?

When you initiate a domain name transfer, the domain name must be “unlocked” with the registrar.  If the domain name is still locked, then no changes can be made successfully to the domain name including migrating to a new provider.  You can usually find a setting in your domain name management interface to lock or unlock the name. If not, ask your provider.  If you are a customer, there should be an unlock option in your administration panel.

You will also need the “auth code” or “EPP code” for the domain name.  This is like a special password that only the authorized domain owner can acquire.  For customers, this auth code is also inside the domain name admin panel.  Just visit and click the Account Login option.

How do I start a transfer?

You will request a domain name transfer order with your new registration provider.

What happens next?

After initiating the transfer, the current domain owner email contact as listed in the WHOIS record will receive one or two emails to confirm the transfer.  It is important that you have access to the email account that is listed on file for the Admin owner.  The email may ask you to verify the “auth code” that you acquired earlier.  (Sometimes you actually need the auth code in your domain transfer order request with your new provider to begin with.)

If you managed to fulfill all the items mentioned above, the process should go smoothly. Most domain names transfer successfully within a few days (3 to 7) of the request.

Remember to make note of all the appropriate nameservers (for your web host) from your old domain name records so they are seamlessly maintained with the new records during transfer.  You don’t want to be surprised by a sudden website downtime because you mistakenly changed to the default registrar nameservers.

Possible Challenges

Sometimes, a registrar does not make it so easy to transfer away from their services.  They might “block” the transfer by declining it during the transfer process.  In this case, you can try contacting your registration provider (the former one) and let them know you wish to move services and request them to allow it to complete transfer.

The most common issue I have witnessed is that an old email contact is listed in the domain WHOIS record which is impossible to access email messages with.  (Maybe it was for an old ISP that you used many years ago when you first bought the domain name.) In this case, if it really is not possible to gain access to that old email anymore, you will need to first update your domain name record before proceeding with any transfer.  Follow the necessary procedures to prove your identity and update the contact information with the current registrar.

Another challenge occurs when the domain name is due for registration very soon.  I always recommend renewing the domain for a minimum period (1 year) first. This will prevent downtime during transfer procedures.  If your domain name expires, it cannot be transferred.  Remember that the new years of registration you purchase with your new provider should be tacked onto the period you had with your previous provider – like an extension.  So you should not lose any years of registration that you paid for (but consult the provider to be sure).



Posted in: Domain Registration, Web Site Maintenance

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