Transferring a Domain

Domain names are a critical piece of the overall ‘Internet’ puzzle as they are used to identify pretty much every server on the Internet. DNS servers are used to translate a domain name (such as into the IP address that has been assigned to the server. If this lookup fails for any reason, you are petty much dead in the water as your site or services instantly become unavailable. This is why I shied away so far from moving my most used domain from one domain registrar company to another. In theory, the process is supposed to be quite simple, but then, you know, it’s just theory…

Unfortunately, the pain of having my most used domain name registered and operated by keeps growing. Over the years their annual pricing has become very uncompetitive and, even worse, they continue to refuse to include must-have features such as dynamic DNS for IPv6 addresses into their system. So I decided that before moving away from them I wanted to gain some ‘domain transfer’ experience by doing a test run.

Old and New Registrar Combination For My Test

As I only have one domain name with, I had to run the experiment in a different configuration. So instead of being the ‘old’ or ‘transfer-out’ DNS registrar, I used 1&1, who is the domain name registrar (+ web space service provider + email provider) for other domains I own. The ‘new’ or ‘transfer-in’ DNS registrar of my choice was inwx.

A Transfer In 60 Seconds!

Fortunately, transferring a domain was much much simpler than I thought, at least in this combination of old and new registrar. To transfer the domain I went to the domain administration web page at my ‘old’ registrar and clicked on “Get Transfer Code” next to the domain name I wanted to transfer. The transfer code identifies me as the owner of that domain to the ‘new’ registrar and was immediately shown on the screen. This is all that was required to initiate the domain name transfer on the ‘transfer-out’ side.

I then opened the domain administration web page of my ‘transfer-in’ registrar, inwx in this case, and clicked on ‘Transfer Domain’. Here, I specified the domain name and the ‘transfer code’ which I copied over from the other web page. Before the transfer was started, inwx then asked me if I wanted to keep the current DNS server provider or if I wanted them to host the DNS records for the domain as well. Obviously I wanted them to be both my registrar and DNS hoster so I said ‘no’ and then specified the IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to initially populate the A and AAAA record with. If these IP addresses are the same as those the current DNS record points to the transfer is seamless and there is no service interruption as the DNS lookup before and after to the different registrars will return the same IP addresses.

Perhaps inwx could have also gotten the IP addresses from the old registrar/DNS hoster but it might be that they prefer manual configuration to ensure that the person transferring the domain knows their stuff. Once that was done, the domain transfer process was started and I was prepared to wait a few hours or a day for it to be done.

I was very positively surprised that I got an email from inwx in less than a minute that the old domain registrar (1&1) has acknowledged the transfer and that they are now the registrar and DNS hoster for the domain. A quick whois lookup indeed confirmed that the switch was done. I’m impressed!

Registrars are not DNS Hosters

One important thing I learned from this test run was that the domain registrar only holds the record which DNS server is responsible for resolving the domain name into an IP address. Typically, the company that acts as the registrar also operates the DNS servers for the domains that they have registered on their owners behalves. It would have also been possible, however, to leave the DNS records at 1&1 (as I still have a web presence, my email and a number of other domain names there) or to run my own DNS servers. This split was a bit confusing to me at first because I thought so far that a DNS registrar and a DNS service provider is a single function. Yes, they usually are in practice but the two functions are logically separate and can also be separated in practice.

1&1 Also Hosts Web Sites and Provides eMail Service for External Domains

Another interesting thing I found out in the process is that 1&1 (at least in Germany) is happy to offer web hosting and email services even with domains for which they are not the registrar and also not the DNS hosting company. As I have a web hosting and email package from them for other domains I could add the transferred domain back into the list of the domains for which I want these services, this time however as an ‘external domain’. 1&1 would even be happy to be the DNS hoster while not being the registrar but I preferred to leave my DNS entries with inwx. After declaring my transferred domain as external I could then link the web space I previously had for this domain back to the domain name and create email accounts for the external domain again. To make email work, I had to create the corresponding DNS ‘MX’ records again at inwx but that was all there was to it.

Next Stop: Doing It Again with

So far so good, this test run went really smooth. At some point I will run the whole exercise again for my main domain, but this time with as the ‘old’ registrar. Let’s hope their systems and support staff are equally up to the task as the ‘old’ registrar in this example.