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So, you just got an expiration notification from the company where you registered your super cool domain name a few years ago. You could let it auto-renew, except now you've found a better provider and would rather have your super cool domain at the new provider. Luckily the process is very easy, and only takes a week or two to complete, so it should be able to be completed in plenty of time if you start right after you get your 1-month-prior expiration notice.
The process consists of 6 basic steps to be completed at your old and new provider:
Step 1: Do WHOIS lookup to verify your Administrative Contact email address will reach you directly; modify if required.
Step 2: Unlock the domain.
Step 3: Request a Transfer Authorization Code.
Step 4: Initiate transfer process and pay the fee (which also adds an extra year of service)
Step 5: Enter your authorization code when emailed by new provider (at the Administrative Contact address)
Step 6: Lock domain at new provider
Here I will give details behind each of the steps above. In this example, I will transfer a domain from Network Solutions to MyDomain. Back in the early days of the internet, I registered my wife's domain with Network Solutions for 10 years. Since then, better and cheaper providers have risen, and through some research and experience, I have decided that MyDomain is the best around. They have some of the best prices, they give you some features for free that other providers charge a lot for or don't even offer, and when you call their support, you get real people.
Anyway, here's the detailed process at those providers.
Do a WHOIS database lookup to verify the email address
This is called different things depending on the provider. Network Solutions calls it "Domain Protect." MyDomain calls it "Transfer Lock." Whatever it's called, it prevents your domain from being transferred, and you need to deactivate it.
Change WHOIS contact info