Needing to transfer a domain name is something I do so rarely, so I forget about all the little details and caveats involved. Domains tend to be a small expense, handled only once per year, so there is little incentive to switch. That said, here are a few things to keep in mind so that the process goes smoothly.
Before you Transfer a Domain:
Consider how critical it is that your domain stays in your possession. For all the wiggling involved in a transfer, know that the level of security is worth the effort.
- Start this process 70+ days before the domain’s expiration date. You will simply not be allowed to transfer a domain too close to its renewal.
- See that your WHOIS information is correct. This contact info may be used to process your transfer. Privacy guard not a problem.
- Don’t update your WHOIS info if you don’t have to. You must be 60+ days out from touching your WHOIS to transfer a domain.
- Be ready to receive emails and act. This may require clients to forward you things immediately, if they are the contact on record.
- Allow 7 days for the transfer to be completed. Sadly this may not be something you can complete in an afternoon.
Two Domain Registrars and ICANN
There are at least 4 parties involved in this process to transfer a domain name. Your old registrar, sometimes called the “losing registrar” as you are now moving away from them. Your new registrar, aka the “winning registrar” who will be your future provider. There is you, of course, and also there is ICANN.org.
ICANN is the international directory of all domain names and who owns them. They are the single “master recordkeeper”. Registrars are allowed to sell domain names to the public, but ICANN is who keeps track.
When you go to transfer a domain name, the two registrars interface with each other but they also interface with ICANN. You (or the domain’s legal owner) are also in the mix. It’s because of all these moving parts, and for security reasons, that the process can take a little time.
Each registrar can do things a little differently, please keep that in mind.
The Process to Transfer a Domain Name
Assuming that you have met all those requirements above — timing is all right, contact information all right — here is an overview of the steps you’ll take.
- Unlock your domain. The “lock” is a setting inside your account with the losing registrar. A locked domain cannot be moved, so change the toggle and save that setting. At all other times, keep your domains locked.
- Request a Transfer Code from the losing registrar. This should be sent to you by email. It may be called an EPP code.
- Log in to your account with the winning registrar. Purchase the transfer & year of domain if you have not done so already.
- Input the Transfer Code when requested.
- Check your email and winning registrar for their next step.
- If the winning registrar sends out a confirmation request, it will be to the WHOIS contact. Check that email and accept the transfer.
If the above went smoothly for you, then you should have your domain transfer completed in less than the 7 days (ideally).
Problems With Domain Transfers
Expiration is too near. You will need to renew your domain with the losing registrar, and also purchase it at the winning registrar at transfer time. See if your winning registrar offers to extend your domain expiration date. Some companies will give you 2 years even though you paid one of those to the old/losing company.
Lost access to the email inbox listed in WHOIS. If you can recreate the inbox, do that. If you cannot, check with your winning registrar. They may automatically accept the transfer after a waiting period.
Recently edited my WHOIS. You are just going to have to wait.
Don’t remember where my domain is held. If this happens to you, look your domain up on WHOIS.org and you should see the current registrar.
Not getting Transfer Code type emails or can’t log into my registrar account. These are total show stoppers, you must have access to these things. If you are a client and a web developer is handling the process for you, you MUST forward those emails on.
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