How to bulk transfer Google Authenticator accounts to a new phone

Moving Authenticator accounts made easier!

by: - Last updated on: December 28th, 2020
Key Takeaways
  • Two-factor authentication or 2FA is the second-most essential practice one should follow to secure their online accounts.
  • Of the plethora of 2FA apps available, Google Authenticator is probably the most popular authentication service, thanks to its simplistic and an ever-so-slightly more secure approach.
  • Until now, if you had to transfer accounts (on Authenticator) from your old device to a new one, the process was fairly tedious, but with the latest updates to Google Authenticator, it is now a lot easier to transfer all your accounts between devices.
  • If you often switch phones, this new functionality is a godsend, as now, you no longer have to go through the tedious process of registering your new device for every single account manually.
  • For more such how-to guides, check out our How-To Guide hub.

Two-factor authentication or 2FA or two-step verification (2SV) is the second-most essential practice, after a strong password, that one should follow to secure their online accounts. Of the plethora of 2FA apps available, Google Authenticator is probably the most popular authentication service, thanks to its simplistic and an ever-so-slightly more secure approach. And even though the Authenticator app has been available for Android and iOS for a long time, it is only now that Google has introduced support for bulk account transferring on the app to make account transferring a lot easier.

Bulk transfer Authenticator accounts

Unlike its Android app, which got the feature earlier this year, the iOS version of Authenticator finally brought support for bulk transferring a few weeks back. With the addition of this new feature, you can now transfer multiple accounts (on your Google Authenticator app) from one device to the other in a lot simpler manner, without running into the possibility of losing their access in the process.

So, if Google Authenticator is your preferred 2FA authenticator app of choice and you often switch devices, here’s a guide to help you bulk transfer your accounts between devices.

Why you need to transfer accounts

Unlike some of the other two-factor authentication apps,the 2FA security verification codes from Google Authenticator do not reside in a centralized location. Moreover, the 2FA codes (for the accounts connected to Authenticator) are linked directly to the hardware (phone) and not the SIM card. [While some might argue that Google’s approach for storing 2FA codes leads to inconvenience, the added security — as a result of no centralized storing of codes — is worth the hassle.] As a result, security codes on Google Authenticator do not offer support for cross-platform sync across multiple devices. So, if you get a new phone and plan to make a switch, the only way you can continue to access the 2FA codes for all your accounts is by transferring the Google Authenticator app from your old phone to the new one.move google authenticator

Until now, if you had to transfer accounts (on Authenticator) from your old device to a new one, the process was fairly tedious. You needed access to your old phone, with the Google Authenticator app (and all your linked accounts) still present, to be able to log in to these accounts and change the registered device to the new one, one at a time. While this worked fine, it demanded a lot of time, effort, and patience — especially if you had two-factor authentication enabled on a lot of accounts and you switched devices every now and then.

But with the latest updates to Google Authenticator, it is now a lot easier to transfer all your accounts from the old device to the new one. And even though you still need access to the old device — with access to all the codes — the process is as simple as scanning the QR code.

Is there a catch

Well, yes! You see, even though Google Authenticator now enables you to bulk transfer accounts between devices, it does limit the bulk amount to ten. So, if you have more than ten accounts linked to the app — based on how many accounts you have — you might need to perform the steps multiple times.

What you need

To be able to bulk transfer accounts from the Google Authenticator app on your old device to the new one, the most critical element in the process is your old phone, with all your accounts still linked. Next, you need to make sure you have the latest version of the Google Authenticator app running on both your (old and new) devices. You can find the latest update to Google Authenticator on the PlayStore — for the Android side, and on the App Store — if you have an iOS device.

Google Authenticator (iOS)

How to transfer (export) Google Authenticator accounts to a new phone

1. Open the Authenticator app on your old device.

2. Click on the (three-horizontal dot) menu and select Export accounts.

Bulk transfer Authenticator accounts

3. Next, hit the Continue button at the bottom and authenticate yourself with the device passcode/face ID, fingerprint.

4. On the next page, you will see a list of all your accounts. From here, select the ones you want to move. [You can only move ten accounts at a time.]

5. Once selected, hit the Export button at the bottom.

Bulk transfer Authenticator accounts

6. Now, open the Authenticator app on your new phone and click on the plus (+) button.

7. From the list of options, select Scan a QR code.

8. Point your new device to the QR code that appears on your old device.

As soon as the new device scans the QR code, all your selected accounts get exported to the new device. When the transfer completes, you get a notification to remove the transferred accounts from your old phone. So, go ahead and remove the codes from the old phone. That way, you do not end up with multiple entries for all your 2FA codes.

Bulk transfer Authenticator accounts

Once done, the exported accounts no longer appear in the Authenticator app on your old phone. As mentioned earlier, if you have more than ten accounts, you can follow the same process over-and-over till you move entries for all your accounts transfer all your accounts to the new phone. After which, you can freely remove the Google Authenticator app from the old phone and still continue with access to all your accounts on the new phone.

The bulk export functionality works with the latest version of Authenticator on both Android and iOS, which means you can use it to transfer all your Authenticator-linked accounts between Android and iOS, as well as Android to Android and iOS to iOS. However, unlike its Android version, which shows a history of recent account transfers, the Authenticator app on iOS does not offer such a functionality.

Google Authenticator (recent activity) on Android

With the new method, you can now seamlessly transfer all your Authenticator accounts in bulk between your old and the new phone. If you often switch phones, this functionality is a godsend, as now, you no longer have to go through the tedious process of registering your new device for every single account manually. Although that said, we do wish Google didn’t restrict the bulk transfer to just ten and gave an option to transfer all accounts at once. Because, with these limitations, someone who has a lot more than ten accounts linked to the Authenticator app needs to go through the process multiple times to have all their accounts transferred to their new phone. Nevertheless, if you take the security of your accounts seriously, having to perform the process a few times is a small price to pay.

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  1. Hello,
    Thanks for this post. It was very clear and helpful.
    The only change I would make is that I would not erase the accounts on the old phone. The reason is as follows: This process only works if you have your old phone. If you lose your old phone, you can’t use the export function to get the accounts to your new phone. Therefore, with a lost phone, you would not be able to get into a 2FA, google-authenticator-app protected website. You would have to somehow call (good luck) or email the company and ask them to turn off 2FA on your account, so that you could finally log on and then reactivate 2FA with a new phone. Imagine the time and the headaches in having to do that for 30 accounts! By keeping the google authenticator accounts on the old phone you will be able to use it to export the accounts to any new phone. Of course, you would now have to keep keep the accounts on the old phone up to date as well, anytime you added a new account on the new phone. A small price to pay and easily done using your ‘export’ method.
    I did this and I can confirm that both phones display exactly the same 6 digit codes whenever they change. You do not end up with different codes on each phone for any accounts.
    Thanks again for a great post.

  2. It may be further added that Google authenticator codes can also be transferred to new mobile using Google Chrome Extension of the authenticator. Further Google Chrome can also be used for login in various accounts.