When you move in the real world, you usually fill out a change of address form with the post office, and boom!—your mail appears at your new home. Changing your email address isn’t quite that simple. Whether you’re leaving an outdated service, moving to a new job, or simply want to get rid of the silly username you created in high school, here’s how to make the transition without any issues.
Pick an email you’ll actually keep
First, make sure your new email address is one you’ll actually use. We’ve covered how to future-proof your email address before, and we’ve also talked about what people think about you and your email address. What’s best for you really depends on what you need from your email.
One option is to get your own domain and associate your email address with your name. Something like email@example.com has a lot more staying power than firstname.lastname@example.org. This way, you won’t deal with an email provider, and you don’t have to worry about changing your email address ever again.
If this process sounds scary, don’t worry. It’s pretty easy to get your own domain name and set up an email address that you can use in a more familiar interface like Gmail (or your app of choice), though having an email address through your domain registrar might cost you a little extra each month for the privilege.
If you don’t want to spend the money on a domain, we’d recommend going with one of the big free providers like Gmail or Outlook. Basically, you want to avoid the email address you get from your school, the email address your ISP gives you, or your company email address. Work and school emails are fine, but they might not last forever, and you need something that you can always come back to.
As for your actual email address, make it as easy to remember and as “grown-up” as possible. That means avoiding cringe-worthy names like “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org” if you can. Instead, stick to your name whenever possible. If that’s not available, add something to your name that won’t be embarrassing or give anything too personal away. Which is to say, avoid adding your birth year, your political affiliation, or your favorite sports team.
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Migrate your old inbox to your new one
In a lot of cases, you can migrate your old emails and contacts to your new email address pretty easily. We can’t cover how to do this with every single webmail and domain provider out there, but here’s how you’d migrate to a new account with Gmail. (It should be pretty similar with other services.)
Migrate your email to Gmail
Once you set up a new Gmail account, you can import email and contacts into that account pretty easily:
- Sign in to your Gmail account and click the gear icon, then select “Settings”
- Open the “Accounts and import” tab
- In the “Check mail from other accounts” section, select the “Add a mail account” option
- Enter your old email address, click “Next,” then make a selection and hit “Next” again.
- Enter your password
- Select the options you want (label incoming messaging, always use a secure connection, etc.)
- Click “Add Account”
All your old emails will now be pulled into your new account. You’ll also get any new emails that come through so you don’t need to worry about email forwarding. This process can be a little slow, so if you need to get those emails quickly, we’d recommend setting up a forwarding system on your old email account as well (see the next section for how to do that).
Gmail also has a separate “Import mail and contacts” option that can also pull in the aforementioned data from other accounts. Consider giving this a try, too.
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Keep your old email alive—set up email forwarding
Next, it’s time to set up a system so that anything sent to your old email account gets forwarded to your new one. You’ll need to do this on your old email account (if you switched to Gmail, you already set this up in the last step). This is different for each email provider, but here’s how to set up email forwarding from Gmail and Outlook.
Set up email forwarding from your old Gmail account
If you switch from Gmail to another service, you want to forward those emails to a new account. Here’s how to do it:
- Open Gmail and click the gear icon
- Select Settings
- Select the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab
- Click on “Add a forwarding address”
- Enter your new email address
- You’ll get a verification email at your new email address—click the link to confirm
Now, when someone emails you at your old Gmail address, you’ll receive that email at your new email address. If you want to receive only select emails here, you can set up filter-specific email forwards so you don’t bring along any junk or spam to your new email.
Set up email forwarding from your old Outlook account
Email forwarding is incredibly easy to set up in Outlook:
- Click the gear icon and select “View all Outlook Settings”
- Select Mail > Forwarding
- Check the box for “Start Forwarding” and enter your new email address
- Select “Save”
Now, any email sent to your old Outlook address will go to your new one.
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Update your email address on all your accounts
One of the biggest pains with a new email address is that you have to update your information in all your online accounts. This means you need to log in and change your email address everywhere on the web—from Facebook to your bank. It’s tough to remember where you have accounts.
You have a few ways to go about this, but this process is much easier if you use a password manager, which should give you a long list of all the sites where you have accounts. Take an afternoon to log in to each of these and update your email address. And don’t forget to update your info in LastPass (or your preferred password manager) while you’re at it—so it isn’t using your old email address for your logins.
If you don’t use a password manager, it’s a little harder to find all your accounts. The easiest way to do this is to search through your old email for phrases like “confirm your email,” “unsubscribe,” “your new account,” or “welcome to.” This should provide you with a pretty accurate list of websites you have accounts at, email newsletters you’ve subscribed to, and just about everything else.
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Tell your friends and family
Finally, it’s time to break it to your friends and family that they need to update their address books with your new email address.
Depending on how many people you need to contact and what your relationship is with them, you might want to send out a few different emails to announce your big change: one for your family, one for friends, and one for business associates. Send the emails from your new email address and BCC everyone else on your list so you don’t accidentally share a bunch of email addresses with people. You can say whatever you want here, but keep it short and to the point: “Hi everyone, this is my new email address, please update your address books and contact me here from now on. Thanks!”
Finally, it’s time to throw an auto-responder on your old email address and let it die gracefully. Just head into your old email account and create one (also known as a vacation responder in some services) with a message that tells recipients about your new email address.
In some cases, you might need to follow up on your change-of-address email to make sure your initial note didn’t end up in someone’s spam or junk folder, but you should now be well on your way to ditching that old email address and moving on to something you’ll actually want to keep for a long while.
This article was originally published on 12/12/13 and updated on 10/7/19 with current information and resources.