What happens to my email address when I switch provider?

email account

I'm switching broadband provider but my current supplier provides my email address - what will I need to do to switch email addresses? Will I still be able to use the old one?

Keeping emails is a tricky business.

The general rule is that providers leave email accounts alone when you switch but, better safe than sorry, it's often worth backing up and moving to your new ISP's service or to free webmail.

Although there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that it can be just fine to use a previous provider's address for months and years after switching ISPs are under no obligation to keep those accounts open.

Switching emails

Let's look at some specific provider examples, in alphabetical order.

BT: email@btinternet.com

According BT's help centre, when you cancel your BT broadband subscription your BT email account will be downgraded to a PAYG or basic service, which you can then access for the next 90 days only.

To continue to use it after this time you will need to upgrade it to a BT Yahoo! Premium Mail account.

The BT Yahoo! Premium Mail service is a paid email service which will allow you to access your BT account, even when signed up to another ISP, without the worry that you might lose access to your account at any moment.

At the time of writing the service is priced at £1.54 a month. See BT's page on this for more information.

Orange: mail@yourname.orangehome.co.uk/@fsmail.net

Orange allow former customers to continue to access email through third party software like Outlook: Orange even have a guide on how to do this.

It's worth noting however, that Orange's previous broadband terms and conditions specifically noted that after termination of your broadband contract they reserve the right to "in particular... delete all the emails in your email account".

Those that access email through Orange's webmail account - probably with an @fsmail address - will likely see no changes as this is available free to non-Orange customers as well.

Plusnet: email@username.plus.com

When a Plusnet account is closed access to all account features - including email - will be removed. See Plus.net general policy.

However, you can keep your email by requesting a downgrade to Plusnet's email only package, which is £20 for a year, during the cancellation process.

You must request this option when you cancel: after the accounts gone it's too late.

Sky: email@sky.com

You're in luck! Sky offer what they call 'email for life'.

It's just a webmail service, actually it's operated by Google, but we like that Sky really emphasise that their customers can keep their email addresses even after changing ISP.

Note! From April 2013 Sky are moving customers to Sky Yahoo! Mail. You have to opt-in to be part of the change - Sky will automatically move your account if you do. If you don't opt-in they will close your account. Find more on this on Sky's site here.

It's also worth noting that Sky's 'email for life' information has been removed from their website. We're not sure yet if it will still apply to Sky Yahoo! Mail, but we'll update this article when new information becomes available.

TalkTalk: email@talktalk.net

TalkTalk also offer webmail which remains accessible even after customers have moved to another ISP.

However, when you cancel your TalkTalk account you lose access to your control panel, so you may not be able to make changes to your email account, such as changing the password.

Just as when TalkTalk webmail users are with the provider, the account will become inactive if it isn't used for 90 consecutive days.

Inactivity just puts the account 'to sleep', though. It doesn't delete it but the address will stop receiving emails.

So if users log in again after 90 days the account will again become active and start receiving emails again.

O2: email@o2.co.uk

O2 provide anyone who registers at O2.co.uk with a free email address. You do not need to be an O2 customer to get one.

If you leave O2 home broadband you may lose some features of your account, but you should be able to continue to use your O2 email address, either via webmail or through a mail application such as Outlook.

One notable change to be aware of is O2 home broadband users get 1GB of email storage, whereas non-customers only get 20MB.

AOL: email@aol.com

If you move or cancel your AOL broadband account you can continue to use and access your AOL email address free via webmail at aol.co.uk or using a mail application, with any other broadband provider.

This is because AOL email accounts are a part of AOL Web Services, which is separate from AOL broadband. If you want to cancel your AOL email account you can find out how on AOL's site here.

Virgin Media: email@virginmedia.com

Virgin Media's policy is just about the exact opposite.

They give former customers three months to change all their account details across the web and then clear out old email addresses, removing personal data and even, potentially, recycling the address (see below).

Free and multiple accounts

All in all, then, you could risk that your old email account will stick around longer but it's not advisable.

If you do go for this option, switching to an email service such as Outlook or Thunderbird which allows you to send multiple accounts to one inbox could be well worth doing just to make doubly sure that you don't lose all your messages and contacts or as a way of phasing in a new account from your new broadband provider.

Here are some brief instructions on setting up multiple accounts in Microsoft Outlook in Windows:

Using Outlook on a Mac the procedure is very similar. Go to 'preferences' then 'accounts' and enter the information from your ISP.

This will give you access to both your email accounts in Outlook.

It's also worth being aware of some of the free online email accounts that are currently available, especially if you plan on moving your broadband providers frequently in the future.

You might find that a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! email account will have just as many useful features as Outlook plus the added bonus of being able to back everything up to webspace.

Recycling email addresses

There's another issue concerning some moving email accounts: provider email recycling.

Yes, even now one of your old email addresses is probably being used by a silver surfer in the home counties who's already ordered a set of William and Kate commemorative plates with it.

It's Virgin Media, in particular, who have come under scrutiny for the practice. It's concerning since a customer with a recycled address would be able to sign into websites the former customer used, access password retrieval and subsequently take over the account.

Consumer and privacy groups think that in order to preserve privacy and prevent conflicts old email addresses should be consigned to the dustbin of broadband history.

However, Virgin Media says it waits six months before any possible reallocation.

The Government's Information Commissioner added nothing to the debate by saying that, "The [Data Protection] Act requires that personal information should be kept secure and processed fairly."

The best advice, it seems, is to change all important website logins which use your old email address since your broadband provider won't help you with this.

Online banking is the critical one (although these should never use personal email as logins in any case) as well as any websites where detailed personal information is at risk, and also social media sites.


30 November 2013

I got my email address when opening up a freeserve account more than 10yrs ago in my mum's name and have had the same one through freeserve wanadoo orange and now ee but I now have moved out. I've kept open the internet purely for the fact that they might delete the email address that I've had for that amount of time which for many website is my username that I can't change.

30 October 2013
susan sueradford55@gmsil.com

I switched to Sky from Virgin in August and I am receiving emails into my Virgin AOL inbox on my phone but my account is closed. I have created a Gmail account but do I physically need to contact everyone who sends me emails to give my new address? There has to be a way to set up a forward to new address even if temporary like moving house!!

15 April 2013

I am about to change my husband's email from Virgin to BT. I want to be sure that he does not lose the emails in his outlook account when we choose a new email address... can you help?

2 February 2013

Optimum is not available in FL. Had to switch to Com.cast. Do I have to change my email address to comcast or can I keep optimum without paying optimum? If I have to change, how much time do I have?

2 February 2013
Choose team

Hi Tim,

Unfortunately, we only cover UK ISPs. However, we did have a quick look and although it's not obvious from the Optimum website, it does appear that Optimum email access is tied to the account and so access would end when cancelling the service.

We also came across this forum post on DSLReports, which might be useful.

28 January 2013

I am desperate to leave Virgin - absolutely useless, it's down more times than I care to admit and they are no help - but I have had my email address since Blueyonder (taken over by Virgin) and I do not want to lose it. Also, my telephone number - it has been our home number for 50 years or more (my grandad) and it is the one point of contact for. . . well, everyone. Any ideas? Any hope? And who would be better than Virgin?

16 October 2012

Will I lose my Demon email address if I switch to BT broadband?

14 April 2011
j c

Will I lose my Tiscali email address if i switch to BT broadband?

14 April 2011
Choose team

We haven't got any personal experience of Tiscali's email system but I think the information above is likely to hold in in a situation like this. Emails are likely to be safe for a while after switching providers but moving to a BT email address as you switch would be safest. It's part of BT broadband's set-up process so should be fairly simple, too.

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