Ask LH: How Should I Migrate My Email Address?

Hey Lifehacker, After being with the same ISP for over seven years I am considering a move. My home email address is specific to the ISP. Is there a simple way to transition your email, contacts, subscriptions and so on to another provider or is it easier to establish a new web based email address beforehand? Thanks, Mail Mover

Email picture from Shutterstock

Dear MM,

Your situation highlights the problem with using an ISP-specific email address (such as [email protected] or [email protected]) — if you ever change provider, you'll no longer have that address. The initial convenience of easy set-up is rarely worth the long-term trade-off. Now that you're contemplating a shift, it's time to plan a new strategy.

We'd definitely recommend making the move to a web-based alternative address prior to making any shift. In fact, we'd suggest doing so right now. The biggest hassle with changing email isn't migrating existing settings (which is a one-time process); it's ensuring that all your existing contacts know your new address. If you start the migration process before you switch providers, you'll have a better chance. Even if you do ultimately end up staying with your ISP, we'd support moving to a more neutral address so that you're future-proofed.

If you have your own domain name for business or for a personal landing page, using that makes sense. If you don't want the hassle, then shift to a third-party service such as Gmail or

If you're using a desktop mail client (such as Outlook or Mac Mail), then you'll already have your contacts and old emails in place — you simply start syncing to the new account instead of the old one . If you use webmail from your provider, then you will need to export your contacts and messages first, and then import them into your new provider. The exact approach varies depending on your provider, and you might have to do a little searching to find out what to do — start with the online support pages and work from there.

Either way, your main concern will be changing your email address. Send a mail (from your new account) with your new address to all your relevant contacts. Make sure you also change your address with any relevant services (such as your bank, airline, and any online stores you use regularly). Changing in advance means you can keep an eye on your old ISP-based address to spot any important contacts you've forgotten to inform of the change.

While this can be something of an initial hassle, it's worth the effort to escape being tied to ISP email. Controlling your own choice of address makes much more sense.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Don't ISP's like iiNet also let you for a mailbox-only service? This could help in the transition if you need to leave the ISP sooner than you can migrate your email.

      I did that for a few years, it was $25 per year.

    It's worth noting that things like Gmail can download your ISP email, and then reply with your new address. Even setup in the footer something like "Please note - my new address is [email protected]".

    "If you’re using a desktop mail client (such as Outlook or Mac Mail), then you’ll already have your contacts and old emails in place — you simply start syncing to the new account instead of the old one"

    Not true if you connect via imap, which is becoming far more common these days. Interestingly you already have an article on this, which is specific to gmail but would work with any provider.

    "Either way, your main concern will be changing your email address."
    I'd suggest the biggest concern for the average user would actually be having an up-to-date backup of their online contact list.

    I've just gone through a similar exercise. I'm ditching everything Google and that included my address. I set an auto-reply on that advising of my new email address.
    I've already got my new provider's account and just have that grab the Gmails so I can catch anything important until I hit the "delete my Google account" button. Actually, it might be that Gmail is forwarding them. Either way, they're ending up where I want them.

    I can tell you it's taken many, many hours to change email addresses for the forums/sites/utilities etc that I registered the old email address with. And here's the gotcha, some of them (at least via the automated route) require you to acknowledge and email address change from the "old" mailbox.

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