Summary:

Making a decision to switch to a new email address is sometimes not as easy as just creating a new account with a different provider. The following guidelines will help identify some challenges you may encounter along the way.

Email Account Migration

There can be many reasons behind the decision that it is time to switch email services. Perhaps you are switching internet providers for faster service and you still use your internet provider’s email service, or you are interested in a less formidable privacy arrangement with your current email provider. Or it just may be that your email service has not quite been what it used to be, as many Yahoo email users are wondering this weekend after days of outages.

Whatever the reason, changing your primary email address is not always an easy task to undertake. The following will serve as a guide to help you identify all of the tasks related to switching email service providers, and hopefully make the transition as smooth as possible.

The new account

Create a new account - Choose your new email provider carefully. You will be undertaking quite a bit of work to move everything over and you want to make sure that where you are going is better than where you have been. Some things to consider are the following:

  • Access methods like IMAP and preferably Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (no POP please)
  • How much online storage space you will have for your messages
  • Advanced features like calendar sharing, task management, notes and contacts
  • Modern security methods like two-factor authentication

Establish a secondary email account - When setting up a new account, be sure to establish a secondary email account that you can use in case you forget or need to reset your new email account’s password. It is also a good idea to set up any advanced authentication settings that may exist like two-factor authentication, which requires two steps in the identification process to access your account.

Archive your old email offline - The easiest thing you can do to preserve your own email history is to download it all locally to a mail client on your desktop computer. The downside is that you will no longer have access to your mail history from your mobile mail client. There are services online like Transend Migrator and YippieMove that will migrate your email messages from one system to another for a fee. These services will move the actual messages from one system’s account to another. And if you are moving to a new hosting provider like Google or Rackspace, they have online migration assistance to help you migrate your email accounts as well.

The old account

Modify the reply to address - While you still have your old email account active, it is a good idea to set the reply to address to your new email account. This will need to be done on any account from which you send a message. Some web-based email services have a setting you can configure on the account maintenance site that will affect all messages you send out. Additionally many email clients allow you to specify which account you send emails from when creating a new message. So be sure that you are actually sending all new email messages from your new account by default.

Forward all new email - Forwarding email from your old account to your new account is a great way to remove your old account settings from all of your devices and mail clients. Some services like Gmail allow for you to keep a message in your Gmail account as well as forward a copy to your new account. Other services like Yahoo will only allow you to forward. A good piece of advice: don’t be too hasty to start forwarding. As soon as you do, it will be more difficult to determine if the sender was using your new email address, or still using your old email address. It is also a good idea to configure email forwarding after you have decided where you will be archiving your old email messages. That way you will not have to continually backup or migrate any new messages that continue to straggle in.

Set vacation away message - Informing all of your contacts that your email address has changed can take some time. One way to get the word out that you have changed your email address is to set a vacation or away message that will automatically be sent out to anyone that sends a message to your old account. Some systems are even smart enough to send such notifications only once to each sender. Keep the away message brief and be sure to include information about your new account. Don’t forget to ask the sender to add your new email address to your contact information. That way you may avoid having your new accounts email messages being sent to their spam or junk folders.

Cleaning up

Change user names of third-party accounts - This is what will take the most time and can potentially be a deal breaker when it comes to switching email. Many online accounts are created using your email address as the user name for the account. Most services will allow you to change the email address associated with the account, but some will not. You may have to create new accounts and deactivate old accounts where you are not able to change the email address associated with the account. During this transitional process, it is not uncommon for a service to send an acknowledgment email to your old account for final verification of the change. So be sure to migrate all of your ancillary accounts before completely shutting down your old email account.

Identify email subscriptions and account alerts - Some accounts that you have established online may not use your email address as the user name of the account, but still have your email address as part of the account information. This is typically the case when signing up for an email subscription or creating an alert to be notified when there is account activity. I have learned to use a password manager and add an entry to each accounts notes indicating what email address I have used with that service. Searching for my old email address in my password manager makes transferring to a new service that much easier. It is also a good idea to remove your old email address from as many subscription services as possible. This helps by reducing the amount of new incoming email you will be going through in your old account as you transition.

Software license keys - There will most likely be no reprise here. Many of the software license keys that you have for the software you own use an email address that is bound to the license key. That email address can be used as a hash to validate the registration code. Software vendors are often times reluctant to change the associated email address for past purchases. And if they do allow for such transfers, they will likely require authorization of the transfer from some sort of acknowledgment email sent to the old email account on file. Some password managers like 1Password will even keep track of your software license keys.

Contacts, calendars and more

Export and import contacts - Contact management is probably one of the quickest and easiest parts of switching. There are even apps that you can use to clean up your contact lists and consolidate all of your friends, business associates and family members into one concise list of contacts. Once you have cleaned things up, you can then import your new list directly into your new account. I have always found this part of the process to be the most straight forward.

Publish and share your old calendar - Moving all of your appointments from one calendar system to another may not be entirely possible. Not all calendaring systems were created equal and some of your events may not be supported in the new system. Especially the recurring ones. Sometimes it is just best to share your old calendar forward and slowly ween yourself off of the old system. Most default settings in calendars will purge old entries after the date has passed anyway.

Forget about notes and reminders - Your best bet it to recreate all of your notes and reminders in whatever new system you decide to migrate to. Like calendars, not all email services will treat notes and reminders (or tasks) the same. For that reason I have stopped using notes and reminders associated with email services all together. I find that services like Evernote and Toodledo have all of the advanced features that I am looking for.

One very important note of caution: As much as you may not want to, it is a good idea to keep your old account active for quite some time to come. Even if you do not plan on using your old account ever again, you do not want someone else to use it either. You do not want the account to be reclaimed by the email service provider and handed out to someone else in the future. It is also a good idea to monitor the account for a while until you are sure that you have transitioned all of your accounts, friends, and family over to the new address.

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