What is the difference between a Domain Transfer and a Domain Migration?

The terms Domain Transfer and Domain Migration often confuses people.

Domain Transfer

A Domain Transfer is literally that. Transferring just your domain name from one domain registrar to another domain registrar. A Domain Transfer is NOT migrating/taking a copy of your whole website and moving it to your new hosts’ servers.

If you just place a Domain Transfer order, this does not automatically set up new hosting for your site. Website hosting must be added on to the order or ordered at a later time whenever you are ready to start developing or making your website live for the World to see.

We recommend clients transfer their domain to their website host as it then ensures your site hosting and domain are in one account – this makes it much easier for keeping track of your products and services and asking your host for help to update any DNS settings of your domain.

Domain Migration

Also known as Website Migration.

A migration is when you, your web designer, or your new host migrates or takes a copy of your site from your old hosts’ servers cPanel account, or restores it from a backup file, to your new hosts’ servers. In most cases, this is an easy process that may only take a few hours –  as long as cPanel access or a backup copy of your site and any email accounts is provided.

This process does not affect your live site or emails. Only when the “Domain Nameservers” or “A Record” are updated will this then make your site live on the new server.


How your emails are routed needs to be considered and checked before you change your Nameservers. For a full explanation check out this article.

How long does a Domain Transfer take?

Domains ending in .au take 48hours once the Registrant has accepted the transfer email that the Registrar sends normally within a few minutes of receiving the transfer request. Domains ending in .com and other domains take 7-10 days.

Again it is important to note that transferring a domain does not affect the Nameservers. And, while a domain is en-route to your new hosts’ domain registrar, you cannot update the Nameservers.
Much like you can’t change the delivery address of a letter or package once it is in the hands of the post office or postie!

When do I update Nameservers?

So now we know that Nameservers cannot be updated when the transfer is in progress i.e. for 48 hours or 7-10 days.
If you need your site to go live with a new host ASAP then bare this in mind, it might be a good idea to initiate a Domain Transfer only after you have changed the Nameservers to your new host!