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Understanding Domain Name Transfers

There may come a point in your internet life when you need to transfer a domain name.  Perhaps you are unhappy with the current service and want to take your domain to a new registrar.  Whatever the reason is, you should know what to expect in order to ensure a smooth transition.

What is a Domain Name Transfer?

A domain name transfer describes the process of taking the name you registered with one registrar and moving it to another.  This simply means you only want to switch your domain name service provider.  Everything about your website and actual domain name remains the same.  Keep in mind that a domain name transfer isn’t the same as transferring your website from one server to another.

The Transfer Process

The first step in transferring a domain name is initiating the transfer.  While it is up to you to make the request, only the new registrar can initiate the transfer.  After purchasing an account and getting set up with the new registrar, you should see a link or button that reads “transfer domain”.  In most cases, you will be prompted to enter the domain name, confirm and click “OK”.

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What you don’t see behind the scenes is the email exchange between the new registrar and the WHOIS database regarding your domain.  The transfer process moves along once the WHOIS administrative contact accepts the transfer by clicking on a link in the email.  Once the transfer has been approved, the new registrar sends notification to the TLD Registry (Top Level Domain) for further approval.

In order for your domain name to work, it be must active.  If it is inactive, pending, or locked, you will not be able to make the transfer.  This is why it is recommended to transfer your domain name well before the expiration date to avoid such issues.  If your domain is active and registered for 60 days or more, the TLD registry will inform the new registrar that the transfer can continue.   From there, the registry lets the old registrar known that a transfer request has been made.  The old registrar generally has about five days to respond to the TLD registry.  If they do not respond in the given amount of time, the registry will automatically assume approval by default.  While this helps you make a transfer from a hesitant registrar, it also increases the potential of domain theft.  For this reason, it is advisable to sign up with a registrar that offers domain locking and other protective features.

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If the registrar actively approves the transfer, they will do so by responding to the TLD registry.  The registry then takes the name from the old registrar, notifies the new registrar and adds it to their account.  That is the domain name transfer process in a nutshell.  As long as you know what to expect, it can all be a painless task.  Although most support staff members are more than willingly to walk you through the process, it is always good to understand what goes on for yourself.

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