How to Change Your Email Address

Category: Email

A reader asks: 'I have had the same email address since high school, and now I want something more professional sounding. But I'm afraid that changing my email address might cause some unintended problems. What do you recommend?'

Changing Your Email Address

The Bible says “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Is it time to put away your first email address… the “clever” one that’s just a wee bit embarrassing now that you’re all grown up?

Or maybe you’ve gotten married and changed your surname everywhere except on your email account. Perhaps you want to ditch your ties to an Internet service provider, or move away from a desktop email program, to a more flexibile web-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo.

The good news is you can do that, but it takes a bit of planning and effort. Changing your email address is a hassle equivalent to changing your legal name at the county courthouse. Like Social Security Numbers, email addresses have become de facto unique identifiers for many personal, business, and government purposes.

Changing Your Email Address

Notifying human correspondents of your address change is fairly easy. Just compose an announcement and address it to all of your human contacts. You may have to remind a few people to update their address books with your new address. Some people put a reminder of their email address change in the signature block at the bottom of their outgoing emails.

Many Web sites require a verifiable email address as a username, even though that’s very poor security practice; a lot of people know your email address, and with half the key it’s easier to crack the lock. It’s possible that, once your address/username is verified, you can change your email address and keep using the old one as a username; but that may vary from site to site. You may need to login and update your profile at every site that requires a username.

But if you subscribe to newsletters, “daily special” offers, paperless utility billing or bank statements, the address in the “From” field is probably of the “do not reply” variety, sent by a computer that can’t read any announcement you may send. You will have to follow every publisher’s process for changing your address. Hint: “update email address” links are often found at the bottom of such messages.

Forwarding and Transferring Emails

If your old address supports forwarding of mail to other addresses, enable that option for a few weeks or months after you start using your new address. That way, mail from people that are slow to get your change of address will still reach your new one. And any website profiles you might have forgotten to update will be covered this way, too. Contact your Internet service provider for instructions on how to set up a forwarding address.

Most email programs have an "export" feature that allows you to create a CSV file containing all of your contact information. You can then use the "import" feature of your new email provider to transfer your address book.

But what about all those email messages that have accumulated over the years at your old address? Archived mail may contain messages and contacts you don’t want to leave behind when you move. Fortunately, you can move those, too. Google's Gmail has a procedure (https://support.google.com/mail/answer/164640?hl=en&rd=1) for importing contents from AOL, Yahoo, Outlook/Hotmail, and other email providers that's dead simple. Microsoft used to provide a third-party mail migration service, but that option is now gone. Yahoo never has gotten this function right. (That might be reason enough to switch to Gmail.)

UPDATE: How About NOT Changing Your Email Address?

After publishing this article, I got an email with some good advice from a guy named Charley Kline. At the end of the message, he said "I think you know who I am. If not, Google me." But I knew already. Charley was the guy who sent the first message over a computer network. He was part of the team at UCLA in October 1969 that connected the first two computers on ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet. So it stands to reason that he knows a thing or two about email. Here's what Charley wrote:

Hi Bob. Having had email for 45 years (in various forms – it was single time sharing system email prior to 1971), I hated having to change it. So I stopped changing it! My first email user names (from the late 1960s) were just my initials, csk. That was common then. In fact, many time sharing systems only allowed user name of 3 or 4 characters.

So ever since then, I have tried to keep my email address as “csk” at some domain or another. But I hated changing my email address. I didn’t have to change it very often since I kept my affiliation with UCLA and also had my own software company. But by the mid 1990s I needed a new one. About 1995, iname.com registered a bunch of domains and offered a free forwarding service. I signed up as csk at mail.com (mail.com was one of their domains then) and have had that ever since. My real email addresses were csk at netcom, earthlink, interramp, etc., wherever I could get a decent ISP. But my public email address always remained as csk at mail.com.

So my recommendation is to find a good provider that will be around (google, aol, hotmail/outlook, etc.) and get one permanent one. Keep your password good and hope that your account doesn’t get hacked so you need to change it.

I should have mentioned that I use a similar strategy to avoid having to change my email address. The rankin.org domain in my email address is a forwarding service that sends incoming emails to my preferred inbox. That final destination has changed several times over the years, but I've never had to change the email address by which the world knows me. Using this idea, and changing the "From" address in your email client is one way to make sure you never have to change your email address when you change jobs, move to a new ISP, etc.

Have you ever changed your email address? If you have any additional tips to share, post a comment or question below.

 
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Posted by on 8 Aug 2013


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Most recent comments on "How to Change Your Email Address"

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
08 Aug 2013

Bob,
My experience with switching to Gmail did not initially go well. It turns out that Gmail is quite fussy about what email forwarding it accepts. As you suggested, I just forwarded my old email online account to Gmail. About every day or so a forwarded email was rejected by Gmail and bounced back to my old email provider. I had no way of knowing it bounced back except by logging into my old email account, which was just an added pain. The solution was to use the Gmail capability of "pulling" the emails into Gmail from my old email account using POP3. It was much better because, should the "pull" fail for any reason (i.e. server down), it keeps trying every hour and never gives up. You set up "pulling" emails into Gmail by:
1. When you are in Gmail, click on the gear in the upper-right corner and then click on "Settings".
2. Click on the "Accounts" tab.
3. In the "Check mail from other accounts (using POP3)" section, click on the "Add a POP3 mail account you own" link.


Posted by:

Misterfish
08 Aug 2013

Why change an e-mail address? Easier to just start a new one, add it to your e-mail client and receive all your e-mails to either address. I've kept all my older e-mail addresses open, and still receive e-mails from people I've not heard from in years.

Makes more sense to keep an e-mail client and change e-mail adresses whenever you like.

By the way, remember to warn readers of the big bug in the Gmail spam filter - the one that shunts perfectly valid (and sometimes important) emails into spam - so you need to read the spam box regularly to ensure the good emails are not deleted (defeats the object of spam filters, right?). And yes, it's happened to me several times. And no, you cannot turn off their spam filters. And yes, gmail know about this.


Posted by:

Rick
08 Aug 2013

I use both Pegasus and Thunderbird to manage gmail and regular accounts. I would be interested in your take on that approach.


Posted by:

dinker rao
08 Aug 2013

have you heard of bigfoot.com? You can use this in parallel to what you say in you article.


Posted by:

Dale Cockle
08 Aug 2013

Very good article. Here are some additional points I'd like to add.

1. Be sure to use the BCC line (vs the TO and CC lines) when sending the change-of-address e-mails to avoid the security/privacy issues of broadcasting the contents of your address book to all recipients.

2. In the text of the change-of-address e-mail, be sure to include both the old address and the new address. This is helpful to help recipients find your entry in their address books to make the change.

3. Send the change-of-address e-mails from both your old account and your new account. This will increase the probability of all recipients receiving the notice (at the price of many recipients receiving the notice twice). The reason for this is to get around privacy measures your recipients may have in place, e.g., sending to trash any e-mail coming from someone not in the recipient's address book, or an intended recipient having blocked (accidently, I hope) your old e-mail address.

4. The option of forwarding from the old account to the new address is not available if/once the account associated with the old address is cancelled, e.g., change of ISPs).


Posted by:

Doc
08 Aug 2013

Yahoo's Customer Service might be a better reason to migrate to another service.


Posted by:

RandiO
08 Aug 2013

Thank you for this very relevant discussion thread.
I hope I am not going off on a tangent by the following, especially knowing that I cannot do the topic enough justice.
In this day and age of all the eavesdropping and privacy concerns, finding and picking the proper webmail service is truly a conundrum.
If such things (security/privacy) are a concern, then it must be said that alternatives to Gmail, HotMail (Outlook.com) and YahooMail are not going to be free of charge. Of course, the alternative would be to utilize email encryption (e.g. PGP, et al) or packaging email content in a passworded zipped file. Alternatively, one can select a payware email client that may provide more security/privacy. Yet, all of these alternatives extract more user time and effort.
One such payware secure webmail (out of Netherlands) is apparently going thru beta testing at the current time. It may be worthwhile for those who are concerned about security/privacy to review this offering from https://beta.startmail.com/
RandiO


Posted by:

Doc
08 Aug 2013

When Yahoo's Customer Service seems to have a default of keeping you on line for 5 minutes as they tell you how busy they are (THIS should have been the clue) then automatically hangs up on you, it's time to SERIOUSLY consider G-mail (even after 25+ years with Yahoo - paid or not, there's no difference in service - never was, isn't now, not looking promising)


Posted by:

Gary Scherer
08 Aug 2013

Moving or copying your mail from one mail service to another is easily done with an IMAP account/connection on the destination server and the source as another account/connection in Outlook or Thunderbird or other similar program. Just drag (or right-drag) the messages or folders from source to destination. Folders usually have to be done on at a time.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
08 Aug 2013

Over the years I've purchased an number of domain names, either for business reasons or just because I came up with an interesting name which I wanted to grab. They're pretty cheap with a domain registrar such as Godaddy. Then from Godaddy I set up email forwarding such that any email sent to me at that domain name will be forwarded to my Gmail account. (Make sure to include the catch-all forwarding feature so that
EVERYTHING sent to that domain gets forwarded.) Then on Gmail I set up the "FROM" field so that I can select any of my domain name addresses to send email from.

The result of all this is that I can give out different email addresses for different purposes (e.g., select which one will sound most impressive or appropriate to a particular recipient). It doesn't matter which address they have for me, since they all funnel back to my Gmail account.

This also makes me independent of my email provider. I love Gmail, but if a problem developed with it I could abandon it tomorrow for Hotmail or Yahoo or anybody else and not miss a beat, just by changing my email forwarding addresses at Godaddy. Also, if one of my email addresses gets on too many spam lists, I can shift to another address and either ignore the first one or shut it down altogether.

It also means that I can gradually shift from one address to another, and take my time updating subscriptions and financial institutions, etc., because the old one will still work. It's much easier to update an email address if you do so over a period of months, as you see emails come in from infrequent sources, rather than try to change everything at once and inevitably miss a few.


Posted by:

Stewart
09 Aug 2013

"...or move away from a desktop email program, to a more flexibile [sic] web-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo."

There is nothing more flexible than a desktop email program that can be used off-line - or when your umbilical cord to the net is broken.

Apart from that, when I have a problem with hotels, etc., which sometimes restrict email sending due to their security settings, I can also access my email through the web, either through my provider or by using MailtoWeb.com.

*****
I understand that email addresses are not re-issued. If I wish, I can still access my long dead AOL account.


Posted by:

Hira
09 Aug 2013

@ KRS
Gmail allows you to send email with different senders address.
https://support.google.com/mail/answer/22370?hl=en

~ Hira


Posted by:

MrToo
09 Aug 2013

Be careful of posting instructions how to change from your Yahoo e-mail address on a Yahoo forum. You may get banned or loose points.


Posted by:

salim
09 Aug 2013

thank you!
i needed this along with all the comments..


Posted by:

Therrito
11 Aug 2013

When changing from one web-based email account to another I believe it's a good idea not to close the old one right away.
There is always the possibility that someone you know (friends, family, a business, etc.) may not update their address book right away and may, for some time, continue to send mail to the old account.
This had happened to me when an Aunt continued to send mail to my old account even though I had informed her and several times afterwards for almost a year before she finally updated me in her contacts list.


Posted by:

Buffet
11 Aug 2013

For the life of me, I simply cannot imagine why anyone would EVER use their name in their e-mail address? How on earth could anyone be so stupid??


Posted by:

Michael
13 Aug 2013

I'm continualy amazed by the people you send the heads up email on address changes to. Many continue to keep sending email to your old address and then get bent out of shape when you don't respond to their 'URGENT' requests. I swear I've sent out 2 or 3 emails to these straglers and tell them in person I've changed my email address.

Can't lead some horses to water....


Posted by:

Robinoz
29 Aug 2013

I've been using Gmail for years and like the fact that I can send from different email addresses I own eg, my business address. It's a very good program.


Posted by:

Jerry
30 Aug 2013

I suggest using two email addresses: one for your personal email and one for all of those "business" emails. You can keep the cute one for all of your friends and family, and just update the business ones to the new one. If checking two email addresses is just to much, then you can have one of them do an automatic forward to the other, or some variation of that theme, e.g., I have both of mine forwarded to my ISP email account and I check there.


Posted by:

David
31 Aug 2013

I subscribe to pobox.com, an email forwarding service. No matter who I use for an ISP, my public email address has not changed in 15 years. Plus, they have a very good, customizable spam filter.


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