If you want to set up a domain, the best domain registrars are GoDaddy and Hostinger. You can register with GoDaddy for as low as $4.99 or claim a free domain with a Hostinger web hosting plan right now.

At some point in your online business journey, you’ll reach a point when your domain expires, leaving you unable to access your website and potentially losing your data. Domain recovery is a time-sensitive process, so acting fast to recover your domain is essential.

No longer having access to your domain means you can’t renew it or make changes to your website, and you no longer have the right credentials to access it. So it’s important to act quickly to regain the domain.

Here is a simple seven-step guide on how to recover a domain.

How To Recover a Domain in 7 Simple Steps

The 7 Best Domain Registrars for Recovering a Domain Name

There are plenty of sites to register and manage your domain functions with, and we’ve found the seven best platforms for the job. If you need to recover a domain name quickly, here are the best places to do it:

  • GoDaddy — Best for domain protection and privacy
  • Hostinger — Best for bundling domain registration and web hosting
  • Porkbun — Best for creative domain extensions
  • Domain.com — Best for fast and simple domain purchasing
  • Network Solutions — Best for long-term domain registrations
  • Namecheap — Best for affordable domain registration
  • NameSilo — Best for buying domains in bulk

Recover Your Domain in 7 Easy Steps

If you lose access to your domain, there are a few reasons it might have happened (and we’ve seen it all). It could be an expired credit card on the domain auto-renewal, perhaps your company has disgruntled employees or an ex-business partner that took it, or maybe hackers gained access to your domain, leaving you unable to get back in.

In most cases, you can anticipate and avoid these scenarios with preventive measures. But if you have already had this happen, here’s a guide on how to recover your domain:

  1. Check the status of your domain
  2. If the domain is active, determine who owns it
  3. If the domain is inactive, contact the registrar
  4. Request assistance from your current web host or hosting service provider
  5. File a dispute with ICANN and prove recent ownership
  6. Purchase your domain at an auction
  7. Take preventive measures

Step 1: Check the status of your domain

If you’ve been cut off from your account and cannot renew your domain name, you must act quickly to protect it.

If your name is not on the domain record, then chances are that you have missed all renewal notifications. This might mean clients stop receiving emails or your website will go offline!

Its crucial to do everything possible to secure it before this happens.

ICANN is an international organization that helps regulate the internet and its domains. They also offer an online checker tool to determine who owns a particular domain name.

With ICANN’s Registration Data Lookup Tool, you can easily survey the current registration information of any domain name or Internet number resource. This tool utilizes RDAP (Registration Data Access Protocol), which was created as a substitute for WHOIS (port 43) and was formulated by the technical collective in IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).

Some of the information you can pull from the RDAP includes the domain name, the contact’s email address, nameserver information, and other technical details.

Here’s an example of what it looks like when searching for our domain name with the lookup tool:

ICANN registration data lookup tool
Reviewing a domain name with the ICANN lookup tool.

RDAP presents numerous advantages compared to its previous WHOIS protocol, such as more secure access to data, a standardized and user-friendly format, support for internationalization, and the capability of providing distinct levels of access to registration data.

Step 2: If the domain is active, determine who owns it

If your domain is active and somebody else is using it, you should determine who owns it first.

It could be someone who has registered it after you lost access to the account or someone who has taken control of your domain name without authorization.

The lookup tool will tell you the registrant’s identity and the domain’s expiration date. 

You can determine if the domain is active by looking at the registration dates. If it has an expiration date in the future, then it is definitely being used by someone:

ICAN domain information with red arrow pointing to registration dates
Registration dates for ICANN lookup are right under the domain information.

Then review the contact information to find the registrant’s identity. Usually, the owner will be a third-party company, such as a web hosting provider or domain registrar. We use GoDaddy, for example.

ICANN domain contact information
Finding the contact information and ownership of the domain.

Once you have identified the domain owner, you should contact them and explain your situation.

Step 3: If the domain is inactive, contact the registrar

If your desired domain has already expired, you’re not out of luck yet! You still have two options. 

First and foremost, try to contact the person whose name is on the WHOIS record and ask if they are willing to transfer it to you. This rarely works since the other party is usually unwilling to give up the domain and sometimes takes it with predatory intentions.

In this case, initiating a primary contact change process is the best course of action. Although each company has its own specific approach for executing this procedure, most follow similar steps.

To start the process of renewing your domain name, you’ll need to contact a customer service agent and provide them with your information. They will likely ask for proof of identity, such as sending in a scanned or faxed copy of your driver’s license—think of it like entering the DMV for domains. You can inform them that although you cannot access the current email address on file, you have proper identification to verify who you are.

The (hopefully) friendly customer service agents will guide you through the security measures the company has put in place to confirm that your access is legitimate. This may take a bit of time due to a multi-step verification protocol, but rest assured that it’s all done for your safety and protection.

In the long run, your current frustration with account security measures is actually a good thing, as it protects you from hijackers in the future.

Step 4: Request assistance from your current hosting service provider

If your hosting service provider differs from the domain registrar, you should contact them as soon as possible.

They may be able to help you recover access to the domain by providing additional information and/or resources. If your website is still accessible, this could be the quickest and most efficient way to get back in control of your domain.

Step 5: File a dispute with ICANN and prove recent ownership

If all else fails, you can file a dispute with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The ICANN has established certain guidelines to protect domain owners from fraudulent activities. If you have recently owned or used the domain in question, you may be able to prove your rightful ownership.

This process involves multiple steps, several documents, and lots of your time, but it can be worth it if you have no other means of recovering access to your domain. You may also need a lawyer for this process, as the paperwork involved is often complex.

All domain name registrars must comply with the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP).

Under this policy, any trademark infringement disputes must be handled by an agreement, court action, or arbitration before a domain name can be cancelled, suspended, or transferred.

If someone is found to have abused their domain name registration (i.e., cybersquatting), companies that hold trademark rights can take advantage of expedited administrative proceedings that can only be initiated through filing a complaint with an approved dispute resolution service provider.

However, if your site isn’t part of a trademarked platform or brand, the ICANN may not be able to help as quickly or efficiently as you’d like. And if you’re a small business owner, this might be more costly than is worthwhile.

Step 6: Purchase your domain at an auction

Many people buy recently expired domain names with the hopes of selling them privately for large sums of money. And it works.

Unfortunately, if all other efforts to recover access to your domain name have failed, you may need to purchase it at an online auction. This can be a last-ditch effort for those who want to avoid going through the ICANN process or need help to afford it. 

Auction sites like GoDaddy Auctions are great places to start, and most registrars have their own versions. You can find the original registrar of that domain name and see if it is available on that platform.

It is important to remember, however, that the domain name you purchase at auction may not be the same one you initially owned—it could have been registered by someone else in the meantime.

If you do choose this route, make sure to plan ahead and budget accordingly. You certainly will not pay the same amount as you did the first time. And if your seller knows how badly you need it, you have little to no negotiating power.

Step 7: Take preventive measures

The best way to protect yourself from domain name losses is to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from this happening in the first place (or again).

Here are a few tips:

  • Be aware of your domain’s expiration date. The most important thing is to ensure you know your domain name’s expiration date and renew it at least one month in advance. You can set a reminder on your phone or calendar to avoid missing the renewal deadline.
  • Have your contact information up to date. You should also be sure to have all of your contact information up-to-date with the registrar and backup contact information with a different registrar if your primary registrar goes down or is inaccessible.
  • Protect yourself from cyberattacks by implementing strong security measures. Protecting your website from dangerous cyberattacks will help keep your domain safe and secure. Make sure you’re using a strong password, two-factor authentication, and other security measures to ensure that hackers cannot gain access to your account.
  • Secure your domain with a registrar lock. A registrar lock is an extra layer of security that prevents unauthorized transfers or changes to the domain name without first providing a valid authorization code. This way, you can ensure that no one can take control of your domain without your consent.
  • Back up all of your domain records and documents. This includes registration and transfer agreements, contact information, WHOIS records, etc. Having this information backed up will make it easier and faster for you to recover your domain in case something happens because you already have a copy of everything on hand.
  • Invest in a professional monitoring service. Professional monitoring services can help you stay on top of any changes to your domain and alert you if suspicious activity occurs.
  • Decentralize access to your domain. When selecting a domain name email address, choose one that multiple people in your business share or have access to. This way, if someone leaves or is unavailable for an extended period of time, you won’t have to worry about being locked out of your domain name.

Final Thoughts About Recovering a Domain Name

Recovering a lost domain name can be an arduous process, especially if someone on the other end has a malicious reason to take it from you.

The most important thing is to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from this happening in the first place (or again). Make sure your contact information is up-to-date, back up all of your documents and records related to the domain name, use a registrar lock, and invest in a professional monitoring service.

These measures can help you ensure that your domain name will be safe and secure, no matter what.