Successfully transferring a domain from a-z: PART 1


First, let’s clear up some terminology. ( Skip button here – coming soon)

Domain registrar: This is where the company bought the domain.

Think of NameCheap, GoDaddy, Network Solutions

True to their name, they offer domain registration. Often, they will include DNS hosting, so that’s where a lot of people get confused. Just because the domain registrar is GoDaddy doesn’t mean they also host the DNS zones.

DNS hosting / Nameservers: These servers are the authoritative DNS servers for the domain. 

Think of Cloudflare, Amazon Route 53, DNS made easy

As mentioned above, this could be the domain registrar but may vary well not be.

When you type in, the domain registrar doesn’t serve the DNS records; the nameservers do.

More info here:

Web hosting refers to the (typically shared) server(s) where the website lives.

Example web hosting companies include Hostgator, Bluehost, Dreamhost, Site Ground, SquareSpace, and Wix.

These companies will typically try to get you to point your domain to their nameservers, but it is not necessary in most cases.

To complicate things further, the domain registrar might sometimes offer web hosting as an additional service.

Step 1: Locate the domain

First step: let’s figure out where the domain is registered.

I like to go to because it’s easy to remember.

We’re going to type in:

That will take us to:

Let’s break down the results of that query.

Registrar info:

This is the domain registrar. It’s the company we’ll need a login for if we’re going to transfer the domain. Having this login is a non-negotiable to proceed.

Expiration dates:

Next, we have expiration dates.

This domain doesn’t expire for two months, so we have plenty of time.

For a domain that expires tomorrow, we probably need to go ahead to renew at the existing provider before transferring. (Though doing so may delay the date we can transfer the domain, you should renew the domain to ensure a safe transfer.)

Name Servers:

Nameservers are where your DNS records live. (They take part in the internet phonebook analogy people use to describe DNS, but they are not your onsite active directory DNS servers.)

In some cases, the nameserver host may be the same company as the domain registrar.

If it’s not, you may need to investigate getting that nameserver login so you can copy the existing records. Perhaps it’s the web hosting company? (Alternatively, some companies specialize in nameserver hosting, such as Cloudflare or AWS Route53.)

Whois info:

In the whois service, it’s under “Registrar data” These are the actual whois contacts.

Domain privacy:

You’ll notice above that domain has domain privacy enabled.

Domain privacy exists because web scrapers/bots are out there that grab all the whois information available on the internet and use it to create email lists to spam.

In other cases, they may use whois information to trick domain owners with scams.

An Asterisk: Tucow domains:

In some cases, you may run across a Tucow domains registrar.

9/10 times, the domain won’t be registered through Tucow domains. The client won’t know who Tucow domains are.

Tucow domains is a domain wholesaler/reseller. Web hosts like HostGator can resale their services without going through all the requirements to become a domain registrar.

You can use their search here to find out which reseller the domain is through(And which login you need.):

Other registrar notes:

Some registrars don’t play nice. 

GoDaddy, for example, makes you go to their whois search:

Network Solutions may make you go to their search:

Step 2: Gathering logins

Next, we need to gather any logins we need.

But Ben, they don’t have the login! (Optional: I have my login and want to skip ahead.)

If they don’t have the login, let’s look back at the info we got from the whois.

Often, one of the email addresses in the WHOIS info may also contain the recovery email for the account login. (Though this will not be an option if domain privacy is on.)

Usually, the registrar has a feature for forgotten usernames. You’ll generally try a combination of a domain and email address. Try any email addresses retrieved from WHOIS(Assuming privacy isn’t on.)

Then let’s try any owners, then accounting.

Still no luck?

Was there a previous IT person or Web Developer we can ask?

Did a core role in the company change two years ago?

Is it tied to the former person’s company email?

(Pray it’s not connected to their non-work email address, and if it is, hope that they are on good terms.)

Forgot username pages for common registrars:


Network Solutions:


If this method doesn’t work, you’ll likely have to contact their support.

In most cases, they’ll have a verification process where you can still get access to the account.

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Ben Climer

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