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Domain Transfer: How to Prepare for the Switch

Are you thinking about transferring your domain? Learn all about the process, what to expect, and how to prepare for the switch in our beginner’s guide.

Lois Neville A photo of Lois Neville, a writer and SEO expert

Lois Neville


Are you thinking about transferring your domain? There might be many reasons for this - you’ve found a better deal elsewhere, you want to switch ownership, or there’s been a change in budget. Domain transfer is a relatively straightforward process, but like with anything, there are things you can do ahead of time to ensure it goes smoothly.

This guide is written for individuals who are planning to transfer domains for the first time, as well as those who need a reminder on how to do it. This is what we’ll be discussing:  

  • What is a domain?

  • What is a domain transfer?

  • How to transfer a domain

  • How long does a domain transfer take?

  • Domain migration checklist

Let’s get into it.

What is a Domain?

First of all, what is a domain? Also known as a domain name, this is the location and address of a website. It’s also always unique - there are no duplicate domain names. Domain names exist because your domain’s other unique identifier - its IP address - is far more difficult to remember. A domain name is simply a text string that points to the IP address that identifies your website.

So how does it work? When a domain name is typed or copied into the browser bar, a request is sent to the Domain Name System (DNS). This then delivers the IP address associated with the domain name. It does this by using its own servers to identify the servers that host the domain, which then allows it to fetch the website.

What is a Domain Transfer?

Simply put, a domain transfer is the process of switching the domain’s registrar. This is the business that the domain is registered under. They reserve domain names for their clients as well as assign IP addresses.

To ensure that there are no duplicates with the same name, domains need to be reserved, or registered. If an individual wants to switch who the domain is registered under (known as the registrar) they’ll need to undertake a domain transfer.

But before we get any further, it’s important to point out that a domain transfer is different from a domain migration. A domain migration involves choosing a new domain name for your website, whereas a domain transfer simply means transferring your existing domain name to a new registrar. A domain transfer is a little bit easier than a domain migration.

In the case of domain transfer, the servers that host the domain, along with its name, will remain the same. However, if the host is changed, these servers will be switched over.

There are multiple reasons why individuals would want to transfer their domain. This can include:

  • Increased prices

  • Poor performance

  • Selling the domain

  • Finding a better deal

  • Consolidating hosting and registrar

  • A change in internal roles

  • Keeping multiple domains in one place.

How to Transfer a Domain 

Transfering a domain to a new registrar is pretty straightforward. You might see it also be referred to as transferring a domain name, or domain ownership - they all fall under the same heading. We’ll go through how to transfer a domain to a new host in a bit.

First things first, you’ll need to unlock your domain name with your current registrar. This is also known as disabling the registrar lock. Doing this simply means you’ll be allowed to make changes, but it’s an important step. You’ll often find this under your registrar’s domain management section. Often, you just need to click on a lock icon to disable it.

Next, you’ll need to initiate the transfer with your new registrar. This involves getting an authorization, or EPP, code, from your current registrar which will allow you to make changes. This is a good time to double check that all the admin contact information associated with your domain is correct as this will be used by your current registrar during the transfer process. 

You may be asked to verify any changes made, so look out for any emails that are sent your way. Be sure to check all the updated information and then confirm the new registrar. This is usually sent via a click through link in an email. You’re then good to go!

Some things to look out for in this process:

  • You won’t be able to transfer your domain for 60 days once the registrar has been changed.

  • There might be fees charged to change the registrar.

  • If your domain is involved in any legal action, you won’t be able to switch the registrar.

Moving Domain to a New Host

Switching to a new domain host is slightly more complex than just changing the registrar. Remember, a domain host and a domain registrar are two different things. More steps are involved, which means that the chances of downtime are increased. If you want to mitigate this, it’s important to plan and prepare. Not only can your website become inaccessible, but emails linked to your domain can be impacted too.

Moving to a new host is also known as a website migration. During this process, your site (or a copy of your site) is moved to different host servers. Different hosts have different ways to complete this. It’s recommended investigating this with your prospective new host before you start the process.

How Long Does a Domain Transfer Take?

There’s not a set time for transferring a domain transfer, but it’s usually quite quick. An immediate transfer can roughly take 24–48 hours. However, if there are problems with the registrar allowing for an immediate transfer, it can take much longer –  around 5 business days.

Domain Transfer Checklist

If you are working towards a domain transfer, it’s valuable to prepare for the switch ahead of time. Even though it doesn’t involve moving hosts, preparing means things will remain on track (and you won’t have to deal with any unexpected surprises!)

Our checklist here goes through what actions you can take ahead of starting a domain transfer. Completing these steps should help make the process as smooth as possible.

  • Research different registrars. Look at their options and packages, prices, what support they offer, as well as their reviews. You want to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible, without sacrificing performance.

  • Ensure your domain is out of its initial 60 day registration period. You won’t be able to transfer it until this is complete. The same thing goes if it has been transferred less than 60 days ago.

  • You’ll need to double check that the domain name is Active, or has an OK status. You can check this on whois. If the status is ‘On hold’ or ‘Redemption period’, you’ll need to wait.

  • Note that you can’t transfer your domain if it’s within 7 days of expiration with your current domain registrar.

  • If your domain does expire within these 7 days, you’ll need to get in contact with the registrar. They’ll need to grant approval for a transfer. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait around 5 - 6 days before you can start the process.

  • Research any fees you may be charged, so you don’t receive any unexpected bills.

  • Ensure your domain is unlocked.

  • Ensure your contact details are correct and up-to-date.

  • Ensure you have your authorization code.

  • Remove any privacy protection if it’s in place.

  • Once implemented, you can double check that the transfer has taken place on whois.