16 March, 2009

Domain transfers: Step 1

You've got a Net domain. You are something-dot-com, or dot-net or dot-info or dot-something else. And you were pretty happy about it, too, until someone else bragged about what a great deal his domain name was. He registered his domain for half the price you paid, and he's got e-mail forwarding and a Web presence and a blog with his own domain name on it.

You've got...a domain name.

Don't worry. One of the best-kept secrets of the domain world is that you're not stuck with the registrar you picked last year. You can transfer any domain you've got successfully from one registrar to another...as long as you get all your ducks in a row beforehand.

Before you start a transfer, log in at your current domain registrar, navigate to the domain management pages, and pay attention! Make sure you get through all the details in this checklist. If you've already started a transfer, don't panic. Just get cracking on these details quickly. You've got a few days to get it all straight.

(a) Check the start date. Make sure you’ve had the domain for at least 60 days. ICANN won’t let you transfer a domain that’s been at a registrar for any less.

(b) Check the expiration date. Make sure there’s at least two weeks left on the registration—preferably a lot more. Any less, and the domain may expire before the transfer is complete.

(c) Check the contact information. Make sure that you are listed as the domain’s Admin contact, and that the contact information is current.

(d) Check your e-mail. Make sure that you’re able to receive e-mails from your old registrar—you’ll be doing a lot of e-mail monitoring in the next few days. To ensure that your old registrar isn't being spam-filtered, make a minor change to your domain record—add your middle initial to your name, or change the format of your phone number. The domain registrar will automatically inform you of any change—if you get an e-mail from them, you know you’re okay.

(e) Get your Auth Code. An Auth Code is a special password required for transferring .com, .net, .info, .org, .biz, .name and .us domain names. Look for the term Auth Code anywhere in the domain administration site. Each registrar handles these codes differently. Some put them right there in the domain record (1and1,com, for example). Others, including GoDaddy, make you click on a link and send Auth Codes by e-mail. DirectNIC used to make you open a trouble ticket in its private support message area and give it to you there. Whatever your registrar demands, do it before you start the transfer process, and keep the Auth Code on hand. You’ll need it later.

(f) Cancel any extra services at your old registrar. If you got your domain as a package deal with a hosting package, you may end up getting billed for hosting services you no longer use. When transferring domains away from 1and1,com, for example, you need to visit cancel.1and1.com, sign in using your account number and password, and fill out a cancellation form. Then you need to respond to an auto-generated e-mail and log in again—or 1and1.com will continue to think you’re still a subscriber.

(g) Unlock your domain! Most registrars lock your domain by default. It's a sensible precaution against unscrupulous domain-nappers, but it does mean that not even the legit owner of the domain can do anything with it. Make sure the domain is unlocked and click on Save. You'll get an e-mail about this, and it may make you confirm your choice. Once you have...you're done with Phase One of the process.

Now keep all your details handy, and get ready to monitor your e-mail carefully. You’re ready for step two: Starting the transfer.

[to be continued]

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