[HOWTO] Change Your Email Address (or not)

Category: Email

A reader asks: “I have had the same email address for years, and now I'm thinking about changing Internet providers. 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?

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.

Be sure to use the BCC (blind carbon copy) line when sending your change-of-address emails to avoid the security/privacy issues of broadcasting the contents of your address book to all recipients. Include both your old and new addresses in your message, to help recipients find your entry in their address books to make the change. It's also a good idea to send your change-of-address message from both your old account and your new account. The reason for this is some recipients may have spam filters that will trash any email coming from someone not in their contact list.

Many websites 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 email 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, if your new address is with Google Gmail. If you don’t already have a Gmail account, you can sign up here.

Google's Gmail has a procedure for importing contacts from Yahoo, Outlook/Hotmail, AOL, Apple, 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.)

That takes care of your contacts, but if you want to move your saved messages as well, here's how. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Gmail inbox page, then click Settings. Next, click Accounts and Import, then click Import Mail and Contacts. Enter your old email address, press Continue, then click Agree to give the app permission to access your old account.

Next, select the import options you want: import contacts, and/or import existing mail. Finally, click Start Import. It may take a couple of days for Google to import all of your old emails. Keep in mind that Google only imports the messages in your old inbox, not drafts, sent email, or email saved in other folders. To import such items, you will need to manually move them to your inbox, then let Google import them. In my article Moving Yahoo Mail to Gmail, I describe a method to do this, while preserving your existing email folders.

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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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Change Your Email Address (or not)"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Lucy
15 Jan 2018

I too am concerned that some companies require a verifiable email address as a user name, especially financial entities like PayPal.

I use an email provider that allows throwaway addresses.

On a regular basis, I not only change the password on these accounts, but I make a new throwaway email address. Once the new address has been verified and accepted, the old one can be deleted from my email account, as it has only been used for this one entity.


Posted by:

Bob Prager
15 Jan 2018

Colleges sometimes allow alumni to use their email systems as "re-director" (bent-pipe) systems -- mail comes to the college address and is immediately bounced to whatever actual address you're using at the moment. Hence johnsmith@alumni.oldivy.edu. With this setup, I never need to tell anyone (except the school) my current actual email address...


Posted by:

Joe
15 Jan 2018

When changing your email, consider updating your email at all the companies you use. (Remember, when you hit "forgot password" they will be sending an email to the address you originally used with them.)


Posted by:

Dr. Sheldon Cooper
15 Jan 2018

Leo agrees with NB's comment - consider your own domain:
https://askleo.com/get-email-address-life/


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
15 Jan 2018

I also second NB's comment. I own several domains for various reasons, so that email addressed to my-name @ my-domain-name gets email-forwarded to my Gmail account (and also my old Yahoo account, before I learned about its security issues). Email sent from my Gmail account is set to use one of my domain name addresses as the default "From" address. If I ever wanted to switch from Gmail to some other service, no one would even know. Conversely, I can use any of my domain name email addresses interchangeably, with everything funneled through my Gmail account, thus simplifying things on my end. I can also stop using a particular address with no negative consequences.

For further redundancy I use MailStore Home on almost a daily basis to back up all of my email in my Gmail account to my computer's hard drive. And I signed up with iDrive in response to Bob Rankin's many nudges, so my backed-up email then gets backed up onto iDrive's cloud storage.

Not that I'm paranoid, but I just wish there was an easy way to add further redundancy...


Posted by:

Lucy
15 Jan 2018

MailStore Home is recommended again in Comments to today's article on "changing email address, or not".

A search of your site only finds mentions of MailStore in the Comments sections of your articles.

Bob, do you recommend MailStore Home to your readers?


Posted by:

Harold
15 Jan 2018

I have a MacBook Pro and this spring we plan on moving to an area that has a different ISP. As you can see, there are likely very small group that would the same ISP that I have right now.
The question I have is, will my contacts stay in my contact listing or should I copy the people that are there before the move?


Posted by:

Bob Kinsler
15 Jan 2018

I, along with a few others, started the AOL career forum back in 1971 time frame and since been involved with numerous chatrooms in different subject areas (actually was credited with starting the Accounting forum, recruited others, ran it and developed different sub-chatrooms within it). Those were the days, but I never left AOL.


Posted by:

J. R. Kraft
15 Jan 2018

A simple way to avoid having to change your email address is by using an email forwarder account as your email address. I use "pobox", but there are others. I change ISPs as soon as they cause me heartburn, and only have to notify pobox.com of my new email address for forwarding purposes.

Just use your permanent (forwarder) email address in the "reply to" of your email client program template.


Posted by:

casey
15 Jan 2018

I don't understand why so much confusion and why such widespread dependency on ISPs as to what email address to use.

OK, so my addy here is a Hotmail one from 2000 (what's the odds?) that is my junk addy - sorry Bob :-(

What I don't understand is why not avoid all the hassle and just register one's own domain.

For example, my main addy is myname at mynamemyname dot (and the usual)

Also I have registered a somewhat lofty domain myname at mba76, also at iveymba76

Finally - to balance the loftiness of the previous, I also registered pumpum.ca (which is used with myname at, preceding it)

So what am I missing in this simple, e-mail-for-life-time solution?

Cheers,
casey


Posted by:

Phillip
16 Jan 2018

I would like to see some discussion on eliminating junk email. I have had this account for several years and get way too much unwanted mail. Unsubscribe just doesn't get it done.


Posted by:

Lucy
16 Jan 2018

Phillip

It is my opinion that the absolute worst thing you can do to stop junk mail is to "unsubscribe".

You are just letting the spammer know they have a good address, and they will pass it on and you'll get even more spam.

The best way, IMO is to mark it as "spam" or "Junk" whichever term your ISP uses. Never even open it.

And just ignore it.


Posted by:

Phil
16 Jan 2018

I'm one of the mail forwarders. I use mail.com and selected one of their domains and haven't looked back since sometime in the mid 90's.

I also keep all of my email local on my desktop and backed up.

Have never had an issue moving all archived and current email when I move to a new machine.

Do it once. Do it now. Never have to do it again.


Posted by:

Gene
16 Jan 2018

I have used the premium version of Yahoo mail (their original email was far and away the best) since 1998. About 7 or 8 years ago, I changed email names there and found a program, it cost around $5 that moved all my contacts, folders and everything else from the old account to the new one. It ran overnight but absolutely everything moved perfectly and I have hundreds of folders with thousands of emails.

Even with the increase coming with Verizon next year, I see no reason to move to the evil empire - though I do keep a throwaway address there. I do also have three domain names I keep but don't use the email associated with them though I could.


Posted by:

Linda
16 Jan 2018

Years ago I registered a domain on GoDaddy. They allow 5 users for the same fee so my husband and I both have it. We then use SpamArrest to screen the mail. If I changed ISP or Gmail I just need to change it on SpamARrest and it's all forwarded properly to my Outlook account. Works like a charm and I'm not tied to any particular service. Never could understand why anyone would want a .ATT or .Frontier, etc.


Posted by:

casey
16 Jan 2018

Yes Linda, that was an awesome deal that GoDaddy had - but very sadly, recently they stopped giving out even one e-mail addy with a registered domain.

Cheers,
casey


Posted by:

Citellus
16 Jan 2018

I have been with AOL for decades. They have problems at times, but I WANT to be found by cousins & other relatives as I do genealogy. Yes, they are very old posts, but they are still getting occasional responses that I would not have received if I had changed.
I also have a gmail account, but I never seem to get around to using it.


Posted by:

DISPENSER
19 Jan 2018

I have recently become concerned with the practice of using your last name as your email address. Is this a potential security risk?


Posted by:

Tony
23 Jan 2018

My first email address was a Work email address 16 years ago, then my current Gmail address 10 years ago. There are a few sites I signed up with, using my Work email address, and I thought I'd successfully changed all to my personal Gmail address before leaving that job 6 years ago.

Just four months ago I found it impossible to use a service which had upgraded its platform, so I had to go through the password reset process, but it didn't recognize my Gmail address. When I finally called in to discuss with Customer Service, I was quite shocked to discover the address they had on file for me. (This service doesn't use the email address as username, so it never mattered for 6 years until I needed to use it for verification).

This one ended okay because the service was a subsidiary of the parent company of my former employer, and I could actually speak to humans.


Posted by:

Neil
24 Jan 2018

Having started with sendmail/Unix, then DEC/VAX Mail, DOS BBSs mail, Novell Groupwise, Lotus Notes Mail and then AT&T Worldnet which I still have, though it's been bought and sold several times since the late 80s when I got it. Now Yahoo is Verizon so I doubt they will keep the att.net domain grand fathered being competitors?

Another option that I also have is my own domain and static IP with my own local mail server either on Windows or Linux. The advantages with this setup is I have zero restrictions on account names, attachments, protocols such as (POP, IMAP, http, SSL/TLS and virtually any ports I want) and can easily set restrictions based on country of origin and can forward to virtually anywhere. Also don't have to worry about anything going away or changing and I have no privacy concerns about folks in cloud data centers having access to my e-mail content on their servers. You can even do this setup without any DNS name servers off your domain name and is actually the ultimate way to go if your a techy type and want complete control of your mail domain.


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