A transfer path.

AWS’s Route 53 DNS service is awesome—it integrates well with EC2, and is able to dynamically change DNS settings based on latency and health of the endpoints. If you’d like to transfer an existing domain to Route 53, the process is fairly simple.

Transferring a Domain

From the Route 53 Management Console, head over to the “Registered Domains” tab and select “Transfer Domain”.

transfer domain button

This will bring you to a page where you’ll input your domain name along with the TLD extension. Depending on the TLD, you’ll have to pay a small registration fee. It will extend your current ownership by a year, but you’ll have to pay it when you transfer the domain.

You’ll probably be met with the following error:

domain is locked

This is because your domain is still locked at your current registrar. In order for domains to be transferable, they need to be marked as unlocked so that AWS can request the transfer.

This step will vary depending on which registrar you are currently using, but you’ll want to open up your domain settings and find something related to “Transfer.” For Namecheap, the “Sharing & Transfer” tab has the option to unlock the domain.

Unlock the domain using the option under the "Sharing & Transfer" tab.

Once your domain is unlocked, an authorization code should be given to you or emailed to the primary contact for the domain. The domain may take a few minutes to update on AWS’s end, but you should be able to proceed to the next screen once it does. Here, you’ll put in the authorization code to approve the transfer. Certain TLDs don’t require authorization codes, but most will.

You have a few options here regarding name servers. The first is to make no changes, and to continue using the name servers you have in place. This is mostly pointless unless you have your own private nameservers, because once you transfer the domain from your current provider they will probably stop providing

If you want to transfer everything to Route 53, you’ll want to select “Import Name Servers From A Route 53 Hhosted Zone:”

Select "Import name servers from a Route 53 hosted zone" to transfer everything to Route 53.

This will bring up a dropdown allowing you to select a hosted zone with the same name as the domain you’re trying to transfer. If you don’t have one already, you can open a new tab and create a new zone from the “Hosted Zones” tab of the console.

Open a new tab and create a new zone from the "Hosted Zones" tab of the console.

Come back to the transfer and refresh the Hosted Zone list, and you should be able to proceed to the review section and initiate the transfer.

Once the transfer is started, you’ll have to wait a while until your current registrar approves the transfer—up to 10 whole days. In our case, it took 5 days for Namecheap to approve it. If your registrar ends up taking longer, you might want to shoot them an email.

You’ll have to verify your email address once the transfer is approved, so you’ll want to keep an eye on your inbox for this vaguely threatening email telling you to verify, or else your domain will be suspended.

verify your email, or else

You’ll obviously want to click the verification link. Once you’re verified, the domain should be active, and you’re free to edit the records for your hosted zone. Changes should update through Route 53 very quickly, as it boasts propagation times under a minute.

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Anthony Heddings is the resident cloud engineer for LifeSavvy Media, a technical writer, programmer, and an expert at Amazon's AWS platform. He's written hundreds of articles for How-To Geek and CloudSavvy IT that have been read millions of times.
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