What You Need To Do Before Deleting An Email Account

Photographed Nicolas Bloise.
The process of getting a new email address is easy. Getting rid of one, on the other hand, can feel a bit like packing up for a move: It’s tedious, you don’t want to forget anything, and there is a lot of clean-up required.
Unlike departing one apartment for another, there isn’t always a clear-cut protocol for moving on from one personal email to the next. Should you permanently delete the old address, or leave it to sit, unused for eternity? And what about all those old emails and the shared documents and photos it contains?
Ahead, everything you need to know about returning to that email you forgot existed, or getting rid of a current one.
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You Don't Necessarily Need To Delete Your Old Account...
There are reasons you may want to keep your dearly departed email address alive, even after you've created a new account. "You may want to retain the account to ensure it's not later assigned to someone else, resulting in best case mistaken identity, worst case someone impersonating you," says Kevin Haley, the director for security response at Norton by Symantec. "You also may want to use the forward feature for a while to be sure someone important is not still using the old email address."
If you use Gmail, you don't need to worry about your address being recycled since the site forbids repeat uses. However, it is worth considering Haley's second point. You wouldn't want to miss a job interview or message from an old coworker just because they didn't know about your new account.
To set up automatic forwarding in Gmail go to your Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP > Add a forwarding address. Then, click on the verification link that is sent to your new email. Return to the Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP > Forward a copy of incoming mail to > Save Changes.
...But There Can Be Safety Benefits To Pulling The Plug
If you've broken the golden rule of password creation and use the same password for all of your accounts (please don't do this), your old email and other online accounts could be at risk in case of a data breach. Even if you are deleting the account, it's best to take an extra safety precaution. "You want to protect yourself if for some reason the account stays active," Haley says. "Change [your login] to a password you have not and will not use anywhere else."
At the same time, be sure to download your data before deleting your account. Although Google says you may be able to backtrack and recover your email if you have second thoughts, there is no guarantee, so play it safe.
If you can't remember the login info for an old email address, try recovering your account. When you are ready to delete the account, head to Delete a Google Service, click the trash icon, and follow the steps to send your username to the virtual graveyard.
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