Transfer Your Google Authenticator Accounts Every Time You Switch Phones
Don’t leave your security codes behind when you change over to a new iPhone or Android phone.
Using a two-factor authentication app like Google Authenticator is the preferred way to protect your accounts (better than text), and if you’re a user, it’s important that you move your information over when you get a new smartphone, like the iPhone 14 or Pixel 7, for example (it’s the end of the year, and many people could be swapping phones after getting a new one over the holidays!).
Doing so will ensure you can still access your two-factor codes and sign in to those accounts on your new phone. Without those codes, you could very well end up locked out of your online accounts. Thankfully, both iPhone and Android let you easily transfer your accounts from one phone to another.
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts by requiring a randomly generated six-digit code after you’ve entered your password. As privacy concerns continue to rise amid breach after breach, two-factor authentication (along with a password manager) is an important step that can help fortify your online security by making it harder for others to take over your accounts.
Most websites give you the option to receive your 2FA codes through SMS texting or by using a dedicated app such as Google Authenticator, but we don’t recommend using SMS. Hackers have had a lot of success tricking wireless carriers into switching the SIM card associated with a person’s phone number and receiving the two-factor codes sent to your phone number. In 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account was taken over after his phone’s SIM card was changed.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to transfer your accounts from one phone to another. It shouldn’t take too long, but it’s a good idea to set aside some time to make sure it all goes smoothly.
Use the import tool to speed up the process
If you’re switching from one Android phone to another, make your life easier by using the app’s transfer tool. Make sure you have the latest version of Authenticator on your old phone by checking for updates in the Play Store on Android or the App Store on iPhone. You’ll need to have Authenticator installed on your new phone, too: Download here for iPhone or Android.
Then follow these steps on your old phone
1. Open Authenticator then tap the three-dot menu icon followed by Transfer accounts.
2. Select Export accounts and enter your PIN code when prompted.
3. Pick the accounts you want to transfer then tap Next.
It’s so much easier to transfer Authenticator now that you can import existing accounts.
On your new phone
1. Open Authenticator, tap Get Started,
2. Tap Import existing accounts? located at the bottom of the screen.
3. Select Scan QR code.
Your old phone may have just one or multiple QR codes for you to scan. Follow the prompts to finish the transfer process. You’ll see a confirmation prompt for each successful transfer.
The old school way still works
If the transfer tool doesn’t work for you, you can still set up Authenticator using the old method of manually transferring your accounts, one by one. Here’s what you’ll need to do to transfer your Google account:
1. Install Authenticator on your new phone.
2. On your computer, visit Google’s two-step verification site and log in to your Google account.
3. Click Change Phone in the Authenticator app section. Select the type of phone you’ll be using and follow the prompts. If you want to disable Google Authenticator altogether, click on the trash can icon and confirm your decision. Google will then revert to delivering your 2FA codes via SMS.
4. Open the Authenticator app on your new phone and tap Begin > Scan barcode. Scan the QR code displayed on Google’s website with the Authenticator app, then enter the six-digit code to verify everything is working properly. Once that’s done, the codes on your old device will no longer be valid.
Repeat this process for each service you currently use with Google Authenticator, be it Apple, Facebook, Dropbox or Amazon. Don’t delete the Authenticator app off your old phone until you’ve moved all accounts to your new phone, otherwise you’ll be locked out of those accounts — and nobody wants that.
Now that you’ve transferred Google Authenticator to your new phone, take some time to learn all of the iPhone’s hidden features or master Android’s hidden features. Still trying to figure out what to do with that old phone? We have some suggestions for iPhone and Android alike.