What happens to my email address when I switch provider?

david swan
By David Swan

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 and emails: the rules

Let's look at the policies of the big providers.

ISP Can I keep my email?
BT Mail Yes, for £1.60 a month. Otherwise email access will be lost after 30 days.
Sky Yahoo! Mail Yes.
TalkTalk Webmail Yes.
Virgin Media Mail No, email will be deleted after 90 days.
Plusnet email Yes, for £20 a year. Otherwise email access will be lost.
EE email Yes, but not webmail.

Here's some more detail about these policies.

BT: email@btinternet.com or email@btopenworld.com

According to BT's help centre, when you cancel your BT broadband subscription your free BT email account will only be available for 30 days, after which BT will delete the account.

However, you can to sign up for BT Mail Premium, a paid email service, to continue to access the BT account, even when signed up to another ISP, without the worry that you might lose access to your account at any moment.

Note that you will have to sign up before your BT account is deleted.

At the time of writing the service is priced at £1.60 a month. See BT's page on this for more information.

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 Yahoo! as of Spring 2014, but we like that Sky really emphasise that their customers can keep their email addresses even after changing ISP.

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, which seems a bit worrying to us.

Note that all TalkTalk email accounts will become inactive if they aren'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.

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).

Plusnet: email@username.plus.com

When a Plusnet account is closed access to all account features - including email - will be removed. See Plusnet's general cancellation policy here.

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 account's gone it's too late.

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

Orange used to allow former customers to continue to access email through third party software like Outlook even after they left the provider, but not through webmail.

As with TalkTalk, this seems worrisome, because if things go wrong there's much less support.

Free and multiple accounts

All in all, then, some ISPs have great policies on email but many are asking former customers to just cross their fingers and hope that their email will keep working.

If you do go for this option, switching to an email service such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Mailbird (see our review here) 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.


15 March 2015
Richard R

I am in the process of moving home to another town in the North of England. At the present time I have EE line rental and broadband. I have an original fsnet email account which I access through Outlook and also on to my Windows phone. When I move I am considering getting a Sky package as I will be saving about £10 per month. I have looked on many websites and now have conflicting knowledge. If I leave EE totally and go to Sky will I lose my fsnet email address?

15 March 2015

I have just contacted TalkTalk and they have said I will lose my email if I leave them.

11 February 2015

I'm moving from BT, is my <a href="http://disq.us/url?url=http%3A%2F%2Fyahoo.co.uk%3A4_DWvyBX2t4wEcOyQGGVmZB3v2Q&amp;cuid=2412393" rel="nofollow noopener">yahoo.co.uk</a> account linked to BT?

28 January 2015

After switching ISP providers I bought a domain name and created my own email address. Now I will never have to change my email again.

6 January 2015

I am so anxious about losing my email address which is with Virgin. Can anyone please tell me how I can keep it?

3 August 2015
Linda Hurcombe

I share your anxiety. I am working now to keep my <a href="http://disq.us/url?url=http%3A%2F%2Fvirgin.net%3At6HHd-juMw44mc4aIUqH5BSKrV8&amp;cuid=2412393" rel="nofollow noopener">virgin.net</a> email address. Have you had any luck?

20 November 2014

Will I lose my AOL email if I switch to TalkTalk? Help!

7 March 2015
Jane Somerset

HELP! IT IS 7.3.15. AOL have just shut off my email address despite promising not to do so. I am with Zen my internet provider who are excellent. My mailbox stopped working today with my AOL address. I cannot contact them as they do not recognise my user name or password.. please help. Jane Somerset.

4 June 2015

AOL did the same to me back in the days of dial up, My address was gone and unregistrable as a new email address, They're swines &amp;gt;.&amp;gt;

27 March 2015
Gez Yorkshire

Talktalk have done exactly the same to me. We are now with Sky for everything and Talktalk have spoiled access to my Email account without warning. There's so much information lost from 8 years of involvement. What's the solution? Talktalk do not seem interested even if I break the bank to pay for retrieval.

18 October 2014
Ann Ditch

I am trying to change to Sky and Talktalk have tried to railroad me into staying with them. I asked if we could keep the email address, they said I couldn't and my email addresses will be cancelled.
However they were lying I must actively use the TalkTalk account to keep it open. It was only when I read the above that they agreed that it will be open.
Moving to Sky as we have satellite but not an ariel and our TalkTalk bill went up to &pound;40 this month? For what?

5 October 2014

I'm currently with iprimus but as I am moving I have connected the new place to Telstra. I also use Live mail and just don't understand that when I go to the new place why my iprimus email won't receive or send with my bigpond internet connection. What is this issue and how do I fix it? Any help is appreciated.

11 February 2014

I have changed to BT, but I would like to use windows mail to deal with it, how do I set it up please?

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!!

14 August 2013

I have had a BT email address since 2006 but I am now with Virgin - I have just received an email from BT saying they are closing some email services - is this correct - do I need to change over as I am not with BT - any ideas?

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 <a href="http://disq.us/url?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dslreports.com%2Fforum%2Fr20797443-OOL-Can-i-keep-my-Optimum-email-adress%3Ae7yd-S_qlo4GEW-gUfF4weQGngc&amp;cuid=2412393" rel="nofollow noopener">DSLReports</a>, 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?

28 January 2015

If you still are considering this then you may want to buy a domain name with email plan. Costs about the same as lunch for two. Set up your own email address (me@mydomain.com). Now you will never have to change it again, forever. I did this after changing ISPs twice. Lowest cost one I found
is at Internetdirectsolutions . com. You don't need hosting so saves a lot of money. Most phone numbers are transferable for a one time fee and some do it free. Check with a new provider to make sure they will transfer it before signing up for a new ISP.

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.