Transferring your Mastodon account to another server

(If your account is new and you don’t have any followers yet, don’t bother doing all this! Just sign up on the server you want and delete your old account. These instructions are for people who have followers and want to keep them.)

You can migrate your Mastodon account to another server if you want. Moving lets you keep your followers, follows, bookmarks, lists, mutes, block and domain blocks.

The instructions below might seem a bit complicated as they combine several different procedures together, but you only have to do these things once per migration.

The transfer has to happen through the website interfaces of your old server and new server, so make sure you’re logged in through a web browser. The apps don’t support transfers at the moment.

How to choose a new server to move to

Choose a new server from fedi.garden ⧉ or joinmastodon.org ⧉. Both of these sites are human-curated and require all servers listed to promise certain standards of technical reliability and content moderation ⧉.

Do not use the really long automated non-curated server lists, as the automated lists tend to include unreliable servers too.

Before you do the transfer, make a note of your followed hashtags

Followed hashtags aren’t currently transferred, so if you want to keep them you’ll need to make a note of your existing hashtag follows before the transfer, then follow them manually on the new account after the transfer. To see your current followed hashtags, go to your profile, click on ︙ and then Followed hashtags.

How to transfer your account to the new server

  1. Create a new account on the server you want to move to, but DO NOT delete the old account.
  2. On your OLD account, go to Preferences > Import And Export > Data Export and download all the CSV files one file at a time by clicking on the CSV icons. However, DO NOT press the archive request button! Archive request has got nothing to do with transfers. (You of course may want to separately request an archive just so you have a personal copy of an account’s contents. This is especially relevant if your old server is closing down.)
  3. On your NEW account, go to Preferences > Import And Export > Import and upload the CSV files one at a time (the files which you just downloaded in the previous step). Remember to select the correct file type from the drop-down menu for each CSV file before you upload it.
  4. Log into your NEW account on the new server’s website, go to Preferences > Account > Moving From A Different Account (at the bottom of the screen), click on Create an account alias and follow the instructions.
  5. After you’ve finished the previous step, wait at least five minutes. The previous step can take a while for the server to actually carry out, and it’s important that it happens before you continue. While you’re waiting, you might want to optionally change your OLD account’s name to say “(YOUR OLD ACCOUNT NAME HERE) has moved” and change your OLD profile text to tell people your new account address. You don’t technically have to do this, but it helps make extra-sure that everyone can see you’ve moved.
  6. When you’ve finished waiting, log into your OLD account on the old server’s website, go to Preferences > Account > Move To A Different Account (also at the bottom of the screen), click on Configure it here and follow the instructions. This will start transferring your followers to the new account. The accounts won’t transfer all in one go, they will come across in waves depending on how busy their own servers are. Some of your followers will automatically follow your new account straight away, while others may take hours (or in extreme cases even days!). Don’t worry though, you can carry on with the next steps while this is happening in the background.
  7. Even after the transfer, DO NOT delete your old account. It’s best to leave it where it is, because it will redirect people to your new account and leave your old posts intact. Your old posts will redirect people to your new account as long as you don’t delete the old account.

Make sure you do all these steps in the correct order. If you miss stuff out or do things in the wrong order, the transfer may fail or be incomplete.

After doing all these steps, your old account will redirect to the new one, and your followers, follows, bookmarks, mutes and blocks will transfer automatically. There may be a delay on some items transferring, do not worry if this happens.

What happens to my old profile after the move?

After you confirm the move in step 6 above, your old account profile will automatically turn black and white, people will not be able to follow it, and there will be a notice on top of it telling people that you have moved your account to a new address, along with a link to your new account’s profile.

However, not every Fediverse app shows this automatic notice, and it may be a good idea to also add a manually-created note of the new account address. See step 3 of the procedure for more info on how to do this.

How long does it take for all my followers to transfer over?

Most people on your follower list should transfer over in a few hours, but for some of your followers it may take days or weeks to automatically follow your new account. There’s nothing you can do to speed this up, because it depends on how busy their server is and how many tasks it has to do before it gets to your follower’s update. Busier servers may have longer processing queues and take longer to handle follower transfers.

However, your followers can skip this queue by manually following your new account. It won’t cause any problems if they do this. You can encourage them to follow your new account manually if you prefer.

I did the transfer but there are still some followers on my old account. How do I bring them over to the new account?

If there are still followers on your old account after 30 days, you can do the procedure below to bring the remaining followers over to the new account. This won’t affect followers who have already been transferred, they will remain on your new account whatever happens.

To transfer followers that are still on your old account:

  1. Log into your OLD server’s website or web app, this should take you straight to the old account’s settings page (if it doesn’t, try logging out and then logging in again, and do this on a desktop computer or tablet in horizontal mode rather than a phone)
  2. Scroll down to the section marked Move to a different account and click the Configure it here link
  3. Click Cancel redirect at the top of the screen
  4. Scroll down to the Move to a different account section and enter your NEW account’s account address and your OLD account’s password
  5. Click the Move Followers button

Your remaining followers should then start transferring over to your new account. Just like the first time, this second attempt may take days to finish. If there are still some followers on the old account after another 30 days, you can do it a third time etc.

The reason for the 30 day “cooldown” period is to give the first transfer time to work, as some servers do take days or weeks to get round to processing follower transfer requests.

Note that a small proportion of your followers may be on broken servers which aren’t processing transfer requests. There’s nothing you can do to transfer such followers, but that kind of situation is rare.

Why don’t the followers all transfer on the first go? And why do some followers never transfer even after repeating the process several times?

There are lots of reason why a follower might not immediately transfer to your new account when you start the transfer process:

  • They are already following your new account, and the transfer process hasn’t removed their follow from the old account.
  • Their server is down temporarily, the transfer should succeed automatically later.
  • Their server is unusually busy and isn’t currently handling automatic transfer requests.
  • Their server is down permanently. This means they can never be transferred. You can check if a follower’s server is down by visiting its original page.
  • Their server’s settings are incorrect, and this is messing up the transfer process.
  • Their account is deleted, but for some reason it’s still visible from your server.
  • Their account is on a server which uses software that isn’t compatible with the automatic transfer process. You will have to ask them to transfer their follow manually.
  • Your new account’s server has defederated the server of the old account’s follower, and this is preventing the transfer.

It’s worth trying to do the process again after 30 days because some of your followers on the old server will be ones that just had temporary barriers (such as a temporary fault on their server). But don’t worry too much if some followers remain stubbornly on the old account, because they are probably either following your new account already or their accounts no longer exist.

What happens to my old posts? Do they transfer over as well?

Your old posts cannot be transferred. However, your old posts will still be accessible on the old server, as long as you don’t delete your old account. Also, your old posts will redirect people to your new account if people click on the username.

If you absolutely have to delete your old account for some reason, you can do so, but it will mean all your old posts will disappear and people will find it more difficult to find your new account.

If you want to make sure your content is completely under your control forever, you can start your own server for around US$8 a month on a managed hosting service ⧉. Managed hosting means the hosting company does all the technical stuff behind the scenes, so you don’t have to be a techy person to use this option.

Does the new account I’m transferring to have to be empty?

It doesn’t have to be empty. You can transfer your account to any other account, including accounts that already have followers.

Can I go back to my old account if I change my mind?

Yes. As long as you don’t delete your old account, and as long as the server it is on is still functioning, you can always go back to your old account and cancel the redirect.

To go back to your old account:

  1. Log into the website or web app of your old server with your old account’s details
  2. This should take you to a settings page with a message at the top saying the account is inactive
  3. Click on the Cancel redirect link in the message at the top

Followers you transferred to the new account will remain on the new account even if you cancel the redirect, but you can transfer them back from the new account to the old account if you want by using the normal transfer process in reverse.

Can I go back to the new account again if I change my mind about going back to the old account?

Yes, you can go back and forth between accounts if you want, and transfer your followers back and forth too.

However, there will be a cooldown period of 30 days between such transfers. Also, if you do this a lot some people may get confused, and you may lose a few followers if they are on servers that aren’t handling transfers properly.

I tried uploading my data and it won’t recognise it! It says “Invalid CSV File”. What’s happening?

It sounds like you’re trying to upload your account archive file, which is not used in account transfers. The layout of the data export page is a bit misleading, transfers only involve the individual CSV links. The archive request button is not used in account transfers.

Screenshot of account data export page on Mastodon, with notes added to indicate the CSV links are used in account transfers while the archive request is not used in account transfers.

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