On updating names and email addresses

As I recently mentioned, I changed my name recently. While legal name changes naturally involve very fun and uplifting activities like going to the courthouse and the DMV, there was also the joy that came from changing email addresses. A name change and new email address seemed like an opportune time to finally consolidate 2.5 gmail accounts into 1 new one (one of the old ones I barely used so I'm counting it as half) and wow, what an unpleasant experience! I'd rather go back to the DMV than deal with that process again. So I figured I would document some of the things I ran into here, in case anyone else might find it useful at some point.

A List Of Things In a Google Account, In No Particular Order

  • Transferring my Project Fi service was relatively straightforward. Apparently the device coverage exists on a per-account basis, not a per-device basis, but it has the option to transfer the coverage to a new owner (like if you sell your phone) so I was able to do that. Fi support was quite helpful and I was able to transfer my number over seamlessly.

  • Exporting contacts doesn't export any contact photos, and this workaround I found didn't work for me, so I decided I didn't care. The import screen didn't give me any indication that it did anything until I manually refreshed, so make sure to refresh before trying the import again otherwise you'll get duplicates.

  • Changing the ownership of my calendar events was straightforward, hurray. I did this manually because I only had a few recurring events that weren't imported from other (work, Facebook, etc) calendars.

  • The regular files in my Google Drive were fine to transfer (everything outside of the Google Docs ecosystem). I unsynced the directory from my old account, then told it to sync with my new account, then cried a bunch while waiting for everything to upload. I don't get good upload speeds from my ISP.

  • Google docs were a fucking nightmare. My new account is a custom domain through G Suite, and you apparently can't transfer ownership between domains because of "legal reasons". If you're migrating between gmail and gmail you should be fine to change ownership that way. Except some of my docs did appear to transfer for some reason? I wasn't able to discern a pattern as to which ones worked and which didn't, but for the ones that didn't, I had to copy and paste the contents of the docs manually. It was a pain.

  • Moving notes in Google Keep involved sharing each note with myself, then making a copy in the new account, then deleting the shared original from the new account. This was annoyingly tedious, but I only had a dozen or so.

  • Downloading Photos is possible through Takeout, but it limits each archive to 2GB so I ended up with like 19 goddamn zip files. The photo upload in the new account didn't let me select the parent directory, so rather than navigating through allllllll the subdirectories in the uploader, I just moved the photos to the top level. In the directory where I downloaded all the zip files to, I just ran:

    find . -name "*.jpg" -exec mv {} . \;

    and then pointed the uploader to that parent directory. This would have been super annoying had I not been familiar with find/exec. And then I got to wait for things to upload again.

  • Because of DRM related reasons, Google will not let you transfer media (movies, music, etc) you have purchased between accounts. Luckily for me, the vast majority of my music was music I'd purchased elsewhere and just uploaded to Google Play, so I was able to re-upload it to my new account just fine. Given that the internet exists, there are probably ways around the DRM, but I would obviously never recommend that anyone do such a thing; after all, you wouldn't download a car.

  • Playlists don't seem to be transferrable even if all the music in them wasn't purchased through Google. Thankfully I only had 2 playlists that I really listened to but I did have to recreate them manually.

  • Apps I've downloaded seem to be listed in both accounts in the Play Store on my phone, but I haven't unsynced my old primary account from the phone yet so this is still untested.

  • Most apps that I'd signed into with my old account were really easy to sign out of and then into with my new account. There are now zero "apps with access to your account" listed in the Sign-in and Security section of either of my old accounts and nothing seems to have broken so far. I did have to, for example, email Memrise support and get them to add a password to my account so I could sign in that way instead of through the old account, but they did and I did not lose my 70+ day German-learning streak.

A List of Rants about Online Accounts

  • A lot (a LOOOOOT) of sites seem to assume that your name, email address, or username will NEVER change. This is false. If you have a site or app where people create accounts, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MAKE THOSE FIELDS EDITABLE BY THE USER. Like, ok, I guess I get it for Important Financial Things like my bank where having my name be verifiable makes sense, but for everything else, please please please make this a thing that a user can change on their own. If I have to email (or worse, call) someone to do something like update my email address, I'm going to be incredibly grumpy. Keep in mind that if people are changing name or email address, they are probably doing this in many places at once, and it's an awful process, so the less friction you add to the process, the better.


  • Unless you are my doctor or insurance company or someshit, and you have a mandatory binary gender field in your registration flow, if I have any choice at all I just won't use your service. This is why I don't have a Hulu account, for example. If you are creating a registration workflow, ask yourself, do you actually NEED to know gender? Why? What are you using that information for? Make it a free-form text field, give more than two options, make it an optional field.

  • If I have to email or call your support team to delete an account, and/or if you don't have the option to delete an account, I am also going to be super grumpy.

  • AGAIN SERIOUSLY WITH THE EMAIL VALIDATION. I may or may not now own a .com domain whose name just argues for the validity of .works TLDs that definitely doesn't exist just to have one email address for forwarding purposes.

So, what have we learned about changing names and email addresses?It is mostly totally doable if you have a week's worth of time, a greater than infinite amount of patience, and preferably an ISP with decent upload speeds. Back up everything. Multiple places. Email validation is still terrible. Many account management workflows online make going to the DMV seem easy and fun in comparison. Prepare to cry out of frustration at least twice. Stock up on cute animal photos beforehand - you're going to need them.