Google Authenticator generates six-digit codes that you use to log in to your Google account and other web apps. Migrating the app over to a new smartphone is easy.
Google Authenticator is an increasingly important tool for many of us. It adds two-factor authentication to vital accounts by ensuring you need to use your smartphone to enter a randomly generated key alongside your usual password.
With great power comes complications, though. For instance, what happens if you need to switch smartphones? Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to transfer Google Authenticator to a different device, even if it might feel a little nerve-wracking.
We’re on hand to guide you through the steps required to switch your Google Authenticator over to a new phone. The biggest rule to remember: don’t delete Google Authenticator from your old phone until it’s successfully transferred across.
How to move Google Authenticator to your new phone
1. On your new Android or iPhone, download and install the Google Authenticator app.
2. Using a PC or Mac, open Google’s webpage for two-step authentication and log in. When it becomes an option, click on “Move to a different phone.”
3. Click on either “Android” or “iPhone” based on what kind of phone you are using, then click “Continue.” The next screen should show a barcode or QR code.
4. Open the Google Authenticator app on your new phone and follow the on-screen instructions. When you are prompted, tap on “Scan a barcode,” and scan the barcode/QR code shown on your computer screen.
5. After you scan the barcode, a six-digit code should appear on the Google Authenticator app. This code changes every few minutes for security purposes. Type the code into the corresponding field on your computer and click “Verify.”
Transfer Your Google Authenticator Codes for Other Sites
Congrats! You’ve now moved Google’s authentication code to the new phone, but that’s all; the only service you’ve set up is Google. You probably still have a slew of other apps and services connected to Google Authenticator—perhaps Dashlane, Slack, Dropbox, Reddit, or others. You’ll need to migrate each of these, one at a time. This is the time-consuming part we alluded to earlier.
But the overall process is straightforward, even if you need to hunt around a bit for the settings. Pick a site or service that’s listed in your old copy of Google Authenticator (on the old phone) and log into its website or open the app. Find that site’s 2FA setting. It’s probably in the account, password, or security section of the website, although, if the service has a mobile or desktop app, it might be there instead. Case in point: The 2FA settings for Dashlane are found in the desktop app, not the website, while Reddit puts the 2FA controls on the site in the “User Settings” menu, on the “Privacy & Security” tab.
Once you find the right controls, disable 2FA for this site. You’ll probably need to enter the password for the site, or possibly the authentication code, which is why you’ll want to have the old phone and its copy of Google Authenticator handy.
Why should I use Google Authenticator?
If you’re reading this, you almost certainly already have Google Authenticator set up. However, if you’re trying to learn more about how it can help you out, well, it protects your data and identity.
Passwords are rarely enough to keep your most important accounts safe. A brute force method or some clever social engineering can mean that someone can figure out your password. If there’s a second level of defense, you’re far more protected.
Some websites and services encourage the use of codes sent via SMS to keep threats out but this isn’t as secure as Google Authenticator. That’s because a phone number can be spoofed and cloned, so a truly determined hacker can still gain your information.
For the average user, that’s less likely to happen but it’s still possible. With a quick-to-install-and-use app like Google Authenticator, you can gain some considerable peace of mind.