Is it possible to change your email address?
May 5, 2015 8:48 AM   Subscribe

How inconvenient is it to change your email address in the modern Internet environment? Nearly every web application in the world treats your email address as your login or account name: is updating that everywhere feasible?

I've been using the same email address for nearly 20 years. It serves me well enough but it's on a small private domain I don't own. I'm considering switching to a domain name I own myself to be in full control. All my email on the old address is forwarded to Gmail already and I'd just have Google run email for the new domain via an MX entry. So no real functional change, just changing the email address I tell people and websites. The old address will continue to work and forward for a long time.

My concern is that nearly every service on the Internet that requires a login uses your email address. Either for the login username itself, or for password recovery, or just as a unique key. The assumption is baked in so many places; every single checkin log in GitHub for instance. What all is going to break if I start using a new address? How hard is it to change your login address on some random website? (I use LastPass, so I do have a central database of all my webapp logins.)

I'm looking for experiences anyone else has had trying to change their primary email. Did it work? What broke? This LifeHacker article is all I found researching the question. But it mostly focusses on the easy part (making sure you can read your email) and treats the "Update Your Email Address On All Your Accounts" part like it's no big deal. That's the part that concerns me.
posted by Nelson to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I've done it, it wasn't much of a problem for me. I think it's better not to treat it as a chore you do all at once, but rather a rolling process. I updated my email address at various websites over the course of maybe two years, with the commonly-used sites all getting updated within the first couple of days, and stragglers being changed over thereafter.
posted by Pfardentrott at 8:59 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did this about two years ago and occasionally I'll still come across an account where I haven't yet updated to the new email address. I only very occasionally receive an email at my old address. Emails to the old account always get forwarded on to the new one and labeled as "forwarded from old account", at which point I remember to log in to that old account and update my email.

I have never not been able to change the email used on an account, even when the email address also functions as a login username. As for Github, I simply added the new email address and made it the primary contact for the account; all my commits are still tied to the same username. Having access to a LastPass database of accounts I used was incredibly helpful here, so that'll give you a head start.

If I were you, I'd just start using the new email address when signing up for new accounts, and make it a summer project to change your email address everywhere (while changing your passwords at the same time – think of it like changing the batteries in your smoke detector!)
posted by theraflu at 8:59 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I changed emails 5 years ago and still come across an account with that old email, or someone mentions that they sent me an email and when I tell them I never got it we figure out they sent it to the old address.

If you do this, set up autoreply on your old account to let people know about your new address. And for a while you might want to check it occasionally to make sure no important messages are getting by you or set it up to auto-forward (but part of the reason I abandoned the old account was because the spam filter sucked so YMMV).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:11 AM on May 5, 2015

My company is just going through a domain change, and we use a lot of cloud services. Some were easy to change over to the new e-mail addresses, but others are much more difficult. There doesn't seem to be a pattern to whether it's going to be easy or not.
posted by scruss at 10:07 AM on May 5, 2015

When you log into a website using your email address, it doesn't check that that's your current, or active, email address. It's simply the identifier used to distinguish you from other users. So that won't break, but you should update, then, your contact info wherever you've used that old email addy.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:09 AM on May 5, 2015

I do this periodically as aliases I use on my domain to sign up for crap fill up with crap from people who have bought the address. It's not that bad. As others have said above, do it as you go both in logging in and as you receive an email from an entity for whom you need to log in. It's really not that bad. Occasionally (5 years after last switch?) I can't log in in somewhere and realize it's under the old alias and boom, log in that way.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:18 AM on May 5, 2015

I just did this in late 2013 as I was moving to a new house and my previous 14 year-old account with Comcast was no longer going to be available. It was an amazing pain in the ass and I wish I'd switched to one of the "free" services (e.g., Gmail) or my own email server sooner. I only thank my stars that I'd been keeping track of all my login credentials with Keepass, so I had a record of most accounts I had. Even then, there were some websites that didn't let me change my credentials, so I'm still logging in to those with my old email address, even though the contact email for those accounts points to my new one. And I know there were accounts I probably missed that I can no longer log into, since the backup email address is my now lost Comcast address.

Given how time consuming the switchover was, I don't think I'll ever change my main email address again.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:09 PM on May 5, 2015

Don't update te email address unless its an important account that you want to receive messages from or might need to change the password and receive the email.

Often the email address had turned into a login name. The only thing you need to to is register this login name with the password. Its best to use the 1Password app for that.

Email is the most common unique identifier of an individual, surpassing the more traditional means of identity like Social Security Number or Driver’s License. Email is central to everything you do online. It’s the starting point for every online account that you create. Doing so you will create a very detailed image about you, your interest, past, present and future intentions.
You might want to confuse the trackers and use various email addresses. Preferably those that disappear after 10 minutes...
posted by Mac-Expert at 12:16 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you save your passwords in Chrome or Firefox? Because both have built-in password management pages that show a list of all your login details by site. I used both recently to update an old throwaway password that had been cracked, and they were great help in tracking down even years-old accounts.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:55 PM on May 5, 2015

...and treats the "Update Your Email Address On All Your Accounts" part like it's no big deal. That's the part that concerns me.

As it happens, I did this on Sunday, because I just moved, which entailed getting a new email address.

After breakfast, I poured a cup of coffee, turned on the tunes and went down the list. Granted, I have always kept a detailed list of sites requiring logins, passwords, security questions/answers and other stuff, so the process was straightforward. It didn't take much more than an hour, plus it felt satisfying to the "organization nut" part of my brain. Not a hassle at all.

And, yes, lesson learned: I got my own email domain.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 2:57 PM on May 5, 2015

 Don't update the email address unless its an important account that you want to receive messages from or might need to change the password and receive the email.
In the age of password security breaches and companies automatically resetting your password in the aftermath, this might not be the best idea.
posted by scruss at 8:06 AM on May 6, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! It sounds easier than I feared.
posted by Nelson at 6:28 PM on May 7, 2015

« Older Can I put my LLC "on hold" and not pay fees?   |   How to Give References when Potentially Changing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.