Complete Guide to Understanding and Transferring a Domain Between Registrars
For this tutorial, I use examples and link to resources that explain how to transfer a domain name from GoDaddy to Namecheap. These specific examples will vary depending on which registrar you’re transferring from and which registrar you transfer to, however, this complete guide can serve as a basic outline for most registrars.
Glossary – definitions that you’ll want to understand
Domain name – Your browser (Chrome, IE, Firefox, Safari) uses these to identify one or more IP Addresses. You type a domain name into the address bar of your browser to get to a website. Amazon.com is a domain name. These allow you to remember words instead of a string of numbers to get to a website.
Registrar – An organization that manages the reservation of domain names. You can think of this as the place where you purchased your domain name. Popular registrars are GoDaddy, Name.com, Namecheap, iPage, Network Solutions, and Blue Host. I highly recommend Namecheap.
Website Host – Often referred to as a Host, it’s the place that has all the files and information pertaining to your website. This can be provided by your registrar, or a different third party company. Many of the popular registrars mentioned above are also popular website hosting companies. However, we use a managed WordPress hosting company called WP Engine for improved speed and security.
DNS (Domain Name System) – This is the system that the Internet uses to convert a domain name into an IP address (or IP Addresses). You can think of it as a map of instructions on where the internet finds important information related to a domain name, like where a website is hosted.
NS (Name Server) – Technically I’m referring to a Root Name Server here: This server (which is a technical way of saying a computer that provides a service) points the internet to the place where your DNS is setup. When you purchase your domain from a registrar, it usually comes setup with two of their default name servers. You or the person who built your website may have changed these to the name servers for the hosting company your website is using. Common default GoDaddy name servers look like this: ns01.domaincontrol.com and ns02.domaincontrol.com.
A Record, CNAME Record, MX Record, TXT Record, SPF Record – DNS records that give the internet directions on what to do with certain things relating to your domain. Example: MX Records for a domain are the instructions for handling email. If you improperly move or configure these, your email could stop working.
Why you might want to transfer a domain name from one registrar to another
- You’ve purchased your domain name through a website provider/CMS like Weebly and you’re cancelling their service.
- You’ve purchased domains through a variety of registrars and are trying to organize and keep track of fewer logins
- You hate your current registrar and you’ve heard about how awesome Namecheap is
- You’ve bought or sold a domain and need to move it between registrars.
- Someone bought and setup your domain for you and they no longer want/can/are willing to handle that for you
General Domain Name Transfer Process
Option 1: Call 206-209-2125 and have us to do this for you.
- Verify the domain name can be transferred and read through these steps entirely before beginning the transfer process.
- Prepare the domain name for transfer* at the current registrar and acquire an Authorization/EPP Code. This must be done by whomever has current registrar access for the domain.
- Initiate the transfer from the registrar you’re moving the domain name to and input the Authorization/EPP Code.
- Accept the domain name transfer request from the administrator email of the domain.
- Wait for the transfer to complete within 5 days.
*If you put in some extra work and setup a third party DNS, you will limit the amount of time your website is down (if any) during this process.
Step 1: Things to know before you begin to transfer your domain name:
- You can transfer a domain name if it has been registered more than 60 days ago.
- You can transfer a domain name if it hasn’t been transferred in the last 60 days.
- The domain must have a valid and accessible admin email address in the Whois database. I recommend that you disable any type of Whois privacy protection/private registration before transferring the domain. Some registrars require it.
- The domain name cannot be expired. Domain status must be ‘OK’ or ‘Active’ and unlocked.
- Once transferred, you cannot transfer the domain name again for 60 days (see #2).
- Transfers may be denied. Example of reasons for denial are:
- Evidence of fraud,
- court order by a court of competent jurisdiction
- Reasonable dispute over the identity of the registered name holder or administrative contact,
- Failed Payment
- The domain name is locked (see #4)
- A domain name is less than 60 days old (see #1)
- A domain name was transferred less than 60 days ago (see #2 and #5).
Step 2: Prepare the Domain name for Transfer
- Disable your domain name privacy/private registration
- Make sure you/someone has access to the Administrative Email for the domain.
- Look up the domain in a Whois database. Take note of the administrative email for the domain. Someone should have access to this!
- If the name servers are with the company you’re transferring your domain name away from, I recommend setting up your DNS through a third party and pointing the NS to this DNS before you transfer the domain. You simply copy all the A records, mx records, txt records, and anything else that is on your domain to this third-party DNS. This way, when the DNS is in limbo at the registrar level, your site and email will remain up on the web. I recommend using Namecheap’s FreeDNS service. Especially if you’re transferring the domain to Namecheap – they will change the NS to theirs and keep all the domain records intact. Keep in mind that NS updates take 24-48 hours to complete!
- Unlock the domain name
- Obtain the Auth/EPP code from the current registrar.
Step 3: Initiate the transfer to Namecheap
- Once logged in, select ‘Domains’ from the menu at the top and select ‘Transfer a Domain’.
- Enter your domain name & Authorization/EPP code separated by a comma. Example: domainname.com, E8R8;Q893*5SH00
- Click ‘Start Transfer’ and Namechep verifies everything in step 2 is correct and the domain is prepared properly. Pick the administrative email address for the domain to have the verification email sent to. Again, you or someone should have access to this! Click ‘Add to Cart’ and add any coupon codes you have lying around.
- Proceed to ‘Check Out’ for payment. Generally, around $20.
Step 4: Accept the domain transfer via email
Delivery of this email can take a couple hours, and it can often end up in the spam folder of the administrative email account for the domain. By now, you should have already verified that you or someone involved in the domain name transfer process has access.
Once you’ve accepted the transfer request via email, the registrar you’re moving the domain name from has 5 days to automatically release the domain. You should receive a confirmation email to the email address on file at the new registrar once it is complete!
Namecheap provides a lot of good resources, one of which is a matrix of Transfer Statuses and what to do in each situation.