Considerations for Changing Your Email Address

Last Updated:   8/23/19  21:26                 Jeffrey Knauth


Changing your main email address can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, but may be necessary. For example, it might be required if you switch to a different network. Below is some of what I encountered when I finally changed my address. Hopefully this may help you avoid some surprises.

Probably you will have many organizations (companies, government departments, institutions, charities, etc.) as well as many people to notify about the change. Just figuring out whom to notify and how to do it can be a big chore.

Then when you try to update the email address in your accounts on the various organizations' websites, you will probably find that many of the requested updates don't work. Almost a quarter of the well over 100 organizations I notified did not handle it well, if at all. (Updating personal correspondents is a lot easier.) You may think you have successfully made the change thru an organization's website and then find they are still using your old address, maybe months later. The organization didn't change its records everywhere it should have when you told them to update the address. Some don't even provide a way for you to request a change. For a login ID, some use the original email address you entered at account-setup; however they don't provide a way to change the login ID if you later change your email address. Some may refuse to accept the format of your new email address. Some even provide links to obsolete or non-existent "profile" web pages. You just have to keep bugging the appropriate Support people (hopefully you can reach them) until they fix their problems or give you a workaround.

Getting completely switched over to the new address can take months. Don't wait until the last moment to start the change process, i.e., don't wait until just a few days before your old email address will stop working. You don't want important emails being sent into a black hole because the sender hasn't yet switched to the new address. Note that some websites require that you still have access to the old email address to authorize the change to a new email address. Presumably for a long time you will need the ability to send/receive with both the old and new email addresses.

With so much going on, it can be very helpful to keep a log of all the requested changes, as well as when and how you made them. Record any problems you had and how you resolved them or are trying to resolve them.

PLANNING AND NOTIFICATION STAGES: To help me see how much work might lie ahead, a few weeks before starting notifications about the email address change I did a lot of prep work. I went thru all the websites I would need to notify about the change and made a list of what was required to do a "profile" update for each. I did no notifications yet; in fact at this point I still did not have a fully tested new address. Finding out how to do the update at a website sometimes required a good deal of exploration since the update process was not always obvious. Having this how-to list made things much easier when I did the actual website updates weeks later.

Similarly in this pre-notify period, I went thru all my email address books, trimming them down and using Thunderbird's flagging and sorting facilities to group those people I would later notify. This made the later notifications pretty easy to do. Also during this time I did text searches on my PCs to find miscellaneous files that had my current email address and might need to be updated. That meant I could very quickly switch to updated files when my notifications began.

In summary, I separated a lot of the work into a pre-notify planning stage to get a feel for what I was about to get into (and maybe to decide not to do the change at all if there was some showstopper). Of key importance, I could do all this planning work well before I had even settled on a specific new email address. Having already done so much work in the planning stage also meant that during the later notification stage I could concentrate mainly on solving problems, which I knew would arise. The work done during the planning stage made the notification stage easier to do. This split into planning and notification stages worked out very well in my case.

WHY I CHOSE MY NEW EMAIL ADDRESS: I have had my own website (i.e., domain) for a long time. It comes with an email capability provided by the website hosting company. I had not used that facility much until I recently decided to change my email address to an address independent of my internet access provider (currently Spectrum). After some thought and testing, I decided to use my website's facility to provide my new email address. That meant my PC-based (POP3) email processing was essentially unchanged from what I was used to with my current email address. I preferred an address provided by my website vs. one supplied by something like Gmail because I wanted to have my mail logs on my PC, enabling my own backups and specialized searches. However, for many other people, using something like Gmail (with IMAP) may be a better choice.

In the testing of my new email address, I did find one problem; it was associated with email attachments. I reported the problem and the web hosting company fixed it in less than two hours. Other than that, the new email address has worked very well. *BY FAR* the main problems I have had are not with the working of the new address, but have been with getting some organizations to accept it and use it instead of the old address. Many of the problems I encountered are described below.

Get and Test a New Email Address

Your access-provider Internet Service Provider is the organization that gives you a physical connection to the internet, e.g., Spectrum, AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, and Ting. Here I will use ISP to mean access-provider Internet Service Provider. Many such ISPs also provide email services, such as giving you an email address.

If you reached this point successfully, you should now have a good new email address to change to. Of course you don't want to start asking others to switch to the new address until you are sure it is good. Then the following three major areas must be dealt with; each has some problems.

Have Organizations Switch to Your New Email Address

Have Your Personal Correspondents Switch to Your New Email Address

Handle Everything Else Where Your Old Email Address Might Appear

History of Changes

7/17/19:  Under Why I Chose My New Email Address heading, clarified:
            I have had my own website for a long time. --->
            I have had my own website (i.e., domain) for a long time.

7/17/19:  Under Get and Test a New Email Address heading, fixed typo:
            Internet Server Provider --->
            Internet Service Provider

7/17/19:  Under Have Organizations Switch to Your New Email Address heading,
          Under There are possible problems if ... used as your login ID. bullet, added sub-bullet:
            * You may have to delete your current account and create a new one with a new login ID.

8/23/19:  Reformatted for better display on smart phones.