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New phone? Moving Google Authenticator is one of the first things you should do

When you get a new phone, transferring your Google Authenticator app and two-factor codes is a vital, but really easy step that you can’t forget.

google-authenticator

Don't forget to transfer Google's Authenticator app when you set up a new phone! 

Jason Cipriani/CNET
This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 2019, featuring tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Get a new iPhone 11 or Note 10 this holiday season? It's exciting, isn't it? As you set up your new phone, transferring apps, email accounts, contacts and calendar entries, don't forget to set up Google Authenticator, the app that holds all of your two-factor codes. Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to log into some of your online accounts.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts by requiring a randomly generated six-digit code after you've successfully entered your password. As privacy concerns continue to rise amid breach after breach, two-factor authentication is increasingly recommended as a way to help fortify your online security by making it harder for others to log in as "you."

Most websites give you the option to receive your 2FA codes through SMS texting or using a dedicated app like 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 in turn, receive the two-factor codes sent to the actual user's phone number. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is a prime example.

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Google's Authenticator app is one such tool that provides access to your two-factor codes. Don't let the name fool you, it works with more than just Google's 2FA service. Here's what you need to do to transfer Google Authenticator to another device.

Step 1: Install the Authenticator app on your new iPhone or Android phone. 

Step 2: Visit Google's two-step verification site on your computer. Log in to your Google account to view your current 2FA settings.

google-authenticator-change-phone

Make sure you have both your old and new phone nearby when moving Google Authenticator. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Step 3: Click on Change Phone in the Authenticator app section. Select the type of phone you'll be using (Android or iPhone ($900 at Amazon)) 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.

Step 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 entering a six-digit code to verify everything is working properly. Once that's done, the codes on your old device will no longer be valid.

google-authenticator-app-on-iphone

The Google Authenticator app is easy to set up. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

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.

After you've set up Google Authenticator, get familiar with your iPhone's hidden features, or if you have a new Pixel 4, we have found some hidden features for you to check out. Looking to take advantage of the camera on your phone? We have your back

Updated periodically with new information.