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How to Recover a Domain You Lost Access To

account_circle Network Solutions Team
Woman Working Her Small Business

Key Takeaways:

  • You can lose domain access for several reasons.
  • Protect yourself by following smart domain practices.
  • Decentralize access and maintain good domain hygiene.


It’s that time again. Your domain is set to expire soon – too soon for comfort. It’s time to renew it, so you go to your domain name provider’s website and pull up the login page, you enter your credentials, and … the password or username is incorrect? What? You must have left off a number, a capitalized letter or perhaps an @ symbol. You haven’t logged on in quite some time. After all, you were never responsible for renewing your domain name in the past.

You try a few more combinations, to no avail, and then it dawns on you: you no longer have access to the account. You can’t renew your domain because you can’t log in. What happened? And what can you do to regain access?

Common Reasons for Losing Domain Access

If you find yourself unable to access your domain for renewal, there is a strong possibility you’ve been affected by one of the three Ds: Divorce, death or disgruntled employees.

Wow. This is getting dark. It’s true that this subject is a bit unpleasant, but these are realities that IT professionals and business owners alike have to deal with when attempting to renew their domain. And it’s certainly better to be prepared for the domain problems the three Ds can cause, rather than be blindsided by them.

Here are a few tips to ensure that these issues don’t prevent you from renewing your domain.

Ensure Equal Access With Your Spouse

Marriage is a partnership on every level, and, in some cases, it even involves a partnership in business. When a married couple runs a business together, they often take for granted the sustained stability of their union. But things happen, and people change. It’s important to make sure that leaving your vows unrenewed doesn’t leave you unable to renew your domain.

If your domain was registered in your spouse’s name, that means it is likely their name on the WHOIS record, which serves as proof of ownership in the domain world. If there is ever a question of who is allowed to change your domain name – which is where your website and professional email live – the answer will be found on that record. If your spouse’s name appears there, the changes they make following your separation will be authoritative, even if you continue to run your previously shared business day to day.

Not all divorces are amicable. They could involve your business and, by extension, your domain registration. You can protect yourself and your livelihood by registering your domain using the name of your company or group and using an email address you both have access to, such as [email protected] instead of [email protected]. It’s not too late to change the email address associated with your domain if you already have one, so do it today

Decentralize Domain Access

It’s important to ensure that several trusted individuals within your organization have access to renew your domain name and update credentials as needed. Entrusting a single person with access can lead to unfortunate results. For example, what happens if the person who owns the credentials for a domain name passes away, with the domain registered in their name? Sadly, that is the case sometimes. It’s a problem Director of Product Management Anna Piatyszek knows all too well.

“I remember a couple of years back, a local charity called us in a panic because they needed to be able to update where their domain name forwarded to, for a very important event,” says Anna. “And it was extra traumatic for them because the head of their foundation had passed away just a week ago. Because the account was in their name and they had forgotten the password, they had no way to reset their access and forward the domain to where they needed it.”

You can avoid similarly difficult circumstances by ensuring domain access redundancy in your organization. Make sure that several individuals can access your domain’s account to renew it as necessary in the event of one person’s untimely passing, and make sure your WHOIS information includes an email address that multiple people can access.

Maintain Proper Domain Hygiene

The final D is for disgruntled employees. As with divorces, the separation of employee and employer is not always agreeable. In these situations, disgruntled employees may walk out with boxes of pencils, a rough draft of an angry Glassdoor review, or, worst of all, your company’s domain name.

Bad domain hygiene is a lot like bad oral hygiene. Say that rather than taking the time to carefully brush one’s teeth (or register a domain through proper channels), you brush and rinse in 10 seconds (or let an employee register a domain in their name). If you were to follow that routine, cavities (or an employee walking out with your domain name) would hardly be a surprise.

That’s why thoroughly cleaning your domain practices is so important. Make sure that no one employee can leave with your domain name – and with it, one of your company’s most valuable marketing tools. Ask any dentist (or domain product manager): good oral (or domain) hygiene saves you time, money and discomfort.

What if it’s Too Late for Good Hygiene?

If you’ve already lost access to your account and can’t renew your domain name, it’s important to act quickly to secure it. If your name does not appear on the domain’s WHOIS record, then you likely haven’t been getting renewal notices. That means the first sign of trouble might be your website going down, or clients no longer receiving your emails.

In this case, use our WHOIS search tool to search for your domain name. The WHOIS record will display the status of your domain and its expiration date, regardless of whether it’s privately registered. See the following example:

NetSol Domain

For information on the meaning of status codes, please visit the ICANN status codes page.

If the domain is expired, you have two options. First, you can reach out to the person whose name appears on the WHOIS record and ask them to transfer the domain to you. This option rarely works due to the circumstances surrounding the three Ds, as outlined above.

Your next best option, then, is to go through a primary contact change process. This process differs from company to company, but the general steps are similar in most cases.

You’ll start by reaching out to your customer service agent to let them know that your domain name is expired. Tell them you do not have access to the email address on file, but you do have proof of identity. Expect them to ask you to provide identifying information, such as a fax of your driver’s license. Think of this step as being a bit like entering the DMV of the domain world.

The friendly customer service representatives will walk you through the steps outlined by their company’s security policy, to confirm that you are authorized to access the account. This process can take a while, because of the multistep verification involved, but it is for your protection.

As Anna says, “You wouldn’t want it to be easy for a hijacker or bad actor to gain access to your account. So your frustration now is actually your security in the future.”

Protect Yourself Going Forward

Dealing with a domain name you can’t access for renewal is something you don’t want to go through twice. When setting up the email address associated with your domain name, choose one that multiple individuals at your company have access to, or ensure that you share access with your spouse or business partner.

Following best practices for domain name account access will save you trouble down the road, regardless of the circumstance. And if you do end up losing access to your domain, follow the steps explained above and be patient, recognizing that the security measures in place on your account are ultimately for your benefit. You want to renew your domain to start with because it’s important to you, so it only makes sense to protect it and ensure your continued access for years to come.


Featured Image – Unsplash