The Big Guide to Domain Transfers


This is a general transfer guide, so it’s not registrar specific. Hopefully you’ll use it to transfer domains to iwantmyname… we’d like that.

When a domain is registered, it’s with a specific company – a domain registrar (like iwantmyname, for example). It’s a simple concept, but things can get a little confusing sometimes.

Some registrars are actually registries, which create, sell, and manage specific TLDs (and possibly only that TLD). Some registrars work with specific registries, but sell and manage many different TLDs. Or your domain could be from a partner of a registrar, like the company you’re using for your website hosting.

There are rules and policies around domain management, but overall, people have the right to register and manage domains wherever they choose. If you want to sell a domain you own, give a domain to a friend, consolidate the domains you have, or just feel like changing registrars, all you need to do is complete a domain transfer.

  1. What is a domain transfer?
  2. Why do people transfer domains?
  3. When DON’T people need to transfer domains?
  4. Pre-transfer checklist
  5. Initiating a transfer
  6. Confirming a transfer
  7. Approving and completing a transfer
  8. Setup after a transfer
  9. Transfer billing]
  10. Bulk transfers]

What is a domain transfer?

In short, a domain transfer is when you move a domain name from one place to another. Broken down, there are two types of domain transfers:

  • internal: between accounts at the same registrar (sometimes this is called a “move”)
  • external: from an account with one registrar to an account with a different registrar.

It’s important to note that while domains are managed by registrars; that does not mean the registrar is the domain’s owner. The owner (or registrant) is the person and/or company whose name is recorded as the registrant/owner contact for the domain (so be sure to keep that up to date).

Why do people transfer domains?

Unless the registrar you’re with is going out of business, you almost never have to transfer a domain name. But ultimately, your domain is yours, and you have every right to transfer it (within registry or ICANN rules, which we’ll get to). Here are some of the common reasons people transfer domains:

  • shopping around for better prices, features, or services
  • don’t like the service or policies of the registrar they’re with
  • domains registered with several registrars and want to consolidate accounts
  • a few hosting companies make it difficult to use their hosting if the domain isn’t also registered with them

When DON’T people need to transfer domains?

There are a bunch of reasonable reasons to transfer a domain, but many transfers happen because of simple confusion. Here’s a list of tasks almost any registrar can handle – no transfer needed:

  • When you’ve bought a domain name and want to connect it to a service/platform or a web host, you just need to connect the DNS records or nameservers.
  • When you want to change from one service/platform or web host to another, you just need to update the DNS records or nameservers.
  • When your domain is up for renewal, no transfer is required. (Transfer renewal scams are very common.)
  • When you’ve bought or sold a domain name and want to update the ownership details, no transfer is required. (Though if the new owner mainly does business with a different registrar, they may want to keep everything in one place.)
  • When you want to add WHOIS privacy to your domain, you can turn this on pretty much anywhere. It’s important to know though that not all TLDs support WHOIS privacy – and WHOIS support is determined by the registry, not the registrar. So if one registrar can’t offer a WHOIS privacy service for a specific TLD, transferring the domain to a new registrar won’t magically make it possible.

And finally, if you want to move a domain from one iwantmyname account to a different iwantmyname account, an external transfer is not what you want – just an internal move, which you can initiate, or we can do for you with an authenticated request. It’s free, it’s real-time, and there is no renewal accompanying an internal domain move.

Pre-transfer checklist

ccTLDs like .de and vary widely in terms of transfer policies, so the information below is specifically for gTLDs (like .com and .net). Our transfer page will, of course, provide needed information or request necessary details if you’re transferring a ccTLD, but if you have any questions, just let us know.

Check if the transfer complies with policies

Here are a few little rules that can prevent transfers if not followed:

  • ICANN policy prevents transfers of gTLD domains with a registration date less than 60 days prior. If you only registered your domain a day, week, or month ago, there isn’t anything we can do to get around that.
  • Check if your domain is active or expired. Typically for gTLDs, domains can still be transferred even if they’re expired, but still in the grace/renewable period. If a domain has passed into the redemption/restorable period, however, it would have to be restored before it can be transferred.
  • Be sure to check your registrar’s policies about transferring domains that are due for renewal soon. For some registrars, it’s simply a requirement to cancel any open renewal billing job before the transfer can be done.

Check that the domain is unlocked

gTLD domains are usually locked against unauthorized transfer sby default. So before a transfer can be initiated, you will need to turn this transfer lock off in your domain’s dashboard (in our system or at another registrar).

Check that any privacy service is removed

Once the transfer process starts, you’ll eventually receive a transfer confirmation email to finalize the process. But with WHOIS privacy on, this email will never get through – and that creates all sorts of problems. Basically, if that transfer email ends up at an old email address someone can’t access, or is sent to a registrar instead of the intended person because of WHOIS masking, the entire process needs to be started over.

Check that you can receive email at the listed registrant email address

Just like with WHOIS privacy, anything that prevents that transfer confirmation email from getting to you is a bad thing. And the top reason these things don’t find their way is incorrect contact information. So before you start the transfer process, be sure to go in to your registrar and update the contact info.

Also, keep an eye on your spam folder if you don’t receive the confirmation email after initiating the transfer. Things tend to get caught up there.

Retrieve the domain’s transfer auth code

This is critical. To get the process going, you need to find and copy the domain’s transfer auth code (also called an EPP code). It should be displayed in your domain’s dashboard (you may need to unlock the domain before it is). For some registrars you need to contact their support to get an auth code.

Initiating a transfer

Once those things are taken care of, you’re all set to begin the transfer! Note that the transfer needs to be initiated at the registrar you are transferring to, not the registrar where the domain is currently registered (the one you’re leaving).

Usually on the registrar’s transfer page, you’ll first enter the domain name to be transferred, then enter the auth code provided for that domain.

As noted earlier, for some ccTLDs things can work differently, so for a ccTLD transfer you may need to provide some additional information like a personal ID number or code. Sometimes the transfer initiation will notify the registrar automatically, and they can (hopefully) take care of some details before you receive confirmation.

Confirming a transfer

Once a transfer is initiated, a confirmation email will be sent to the domain’s registrant email address. (As noted before, make sure you can access that email address.)

Be careful and read the instructions in that email. In it, you’ll be able to either confirm or reject the transfer – and if you reject it by accident, the transfer will be cancelled (which means you’ll need to restart the whole process).

If you don’t receive the transfer confirmation email, check what email address it’s being sent to, and check your spam folder. If the email address is valid and the confirmation email wasn’t caught as spam, you can usually request for the confirmation email to be re-sent, either in your domain dashboard or by the registrar you’re transferring to.

Transfer confirmation emails aren’t sent from our system, however, so if they don’t arrive, we can’t really see why that might happen.

Approving and completing a transfer

Once a transfer is confirmed, it’s really just a waiting game (gTLD transfers complete automatically within 5-7 days). Some registrars (including us) enable you to manually approve and complete the transfer in a matter of minutes, but it’s really up to the registrar. (In our system, you’ll find an approve button in your domain dashboard.)

If you’re in a situation where you’ll have to wait the full 5-7 days, be sure to plan for the down time. While the transfer is in progress, the domain will be offline because it won’t be connected to any DNS records. If you need the connected website(s) and/or email addresses to stay live, be sure to contact your registrar to ask about that faster manual transfer approval.

(Here’s a guide to prevent downtime for domains that are in the process of being transferred to us. Note that these instructions need to be followed before initiating a transfer.)

Once the transfer is completed, you’ll receive a notification of completion and be billed (if relevant).

Setup after a transfer

Domains will transfer to the new registrar with the nameservers they had in place before the transfer (DNS settings do not move over). If you’re using a specific host that you want to keep using, you don’t need to change anything. But if you want to add or modify DNS records, you’ll need to either change the nameserver to the new registrar’s or to wherever you’re moving your hosting service to. In our system, just click on update nameservers in your domain’s dashboard to do that.

Note that if you still have old or external nameservers in place for a domain now registered with us, our DNS dashboard will be deactivated, so any new DNS records you add won’t work until you update the nameservers to ours.

If you have any confusion about getting a website or email working after a transfer, just let us know.

Transfer billing

Many TLDs charge for domain transfers, which usually covers a year’s renewal when transfer is completed. This isn’t an optional fee, so if a transfer has an associated fee, it will be renewed when transferred and you will be billed that amount. If your domain was expiring in 2017 before transferring, for example, afterward it would be expiring in 2018.

If there is no charge to transfer the TLD you want to move, that means there is no renewal included in the transfer for that type of domain. The expiry date will be the same after it’s moved, and you will be billed for renewal shortly before that expiry date. So if the domain was due to expire a month after you transfer, for example, you’ll likely be notified of upcoming billing very soon after transferring.

Transfer pricing for different TLDs vary, though it’s typically similar to registration pricing. Our transfer pricing is here.

Bulk transfers

Sometimes customers want to transfer a lot of domains at once, and for that, doing the one-at-a-time transfer process would be quite tedious. In these cases, we offer a free transfer service where you provide us with the necessary details, and we take care of everything for you.

For bulk transfer orders over a certain size, there can also be discounts available. If this sounds like it’s of interest to you, get in touch!