How to ease the transition to a new email account

Reader Greg is switching Internet service providers, meaning he's giving up the email address he's had from that provider for many years. He wants to know how he can simplify the transition to his new address.

Although that kind of move is a lot easier than moving to a new home, it can still be a hassle. Here are some suggestions for smoothing the process.

1. Don't lock yourself into your ISP's domain. For example, if you're moving from, say, SBC to Comcast, you might be tempted to use your new Comcast email address. That's fine, but what happens if you decide to switch to a different ISP again? You'll face the same hassle all over again.

Instead, start using a Web-based email service you can keep forever and access regardless of who supplies your Internet service. That means Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, or a similar provider.

2. Allow for some overlap. Once you've signed up for a Gmail account or whatever, don't cancel your old service right away. If possible, give yourself a month of overlap time so you can field any messages that come to the old account, while still "breaking in" the new one.

3. Spam your friends and family. Okay, maybe "notify" is a better word. Send an email to everyone in your address book informing them of your new address. Ask them to please delete the old address and replace it with the new one.

4. Change the "reply to" address in your old account. During that month of overlap, you'll no doubt continue responding to mail that comes to the old address. Depending on the service and/or mail client you use, you may be able to change the "reply to" address in the settings. Make it your new address; whenever someone replies to a reply, it'll automatically go there.

5. Set up auto-forward. If your old ISP allows it, auto-forward any email from your old address to your new address. That way, you won't have to keep checking the old account, but you will get all messages that arrive there. Another advantage of the whole "overlap" plan.

6. Update online accounts and auto-mailers. This is perhaps the biggest hassle of all, because you're going to have to manually update your email address at Amazon, iTunes, PC World, your bank, and so on. Use that month of overlap time to track messages from your various accounts and automated senders, then be sure to sign in and change your address.

Do you have any other advice for simplifying an email move? Share it in the comments!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.comSign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter (which is included in the Power Tips newsletter) e-mailed to you each week.

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