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Understanding the Domain Name Lifecycle

Anyone interested in purchasing a domain name will need to learn about the Domain name lifecycle. All domain names start off in the same way – they are all available for registration. This article will look at what happens between the registration and deletion of a domain name. By understanding the lifecycle of a domain name it is possible to retain a domain name that may have accidentally expired, or grab a domain name that has recently been deleted.

Domain Names are Not Owned

One common misunderstanding is that people believe they have purchased a domain name. This isn’t actually true as it’s not possible for anyone to purchase a domain name. Instead domain names are ‘leased’ from the registry. Even if you look at a popular domain such as then you will see that it does expire every few years.

It’s possible to check the expiration date of any domain by visiting a whois site such as

When a domain is registered it can be used for a certain length of time. After this it will be re-released back into the registry where it is available for someone else to register.

Domain Name Lifecycle

Available Domain Names

The first stage in any domain name lifecycle is when it is available. This is when a domain name is not registered by anyone and is available. You will be able to search through the available domain names using a registrar such as GoDaddy. Domain names which are available can be registered for a period between 1 and 10 years.

Registered Period

The domain name will become active and registered once you have paid for it. After registration the domain must stay with the current registrar for a minimum period of 60 days. After this it can be transferred to any other registrar, if desired.

The domain name will remain registered for the duration of the term paid for. After this you will need to renew the domain name if you want to keep it. Most registrars will send out reminders a month or more before the domain is due to expire. This makes it possible to renew the domain name early without losing any time.

Expired Period

The domain name will be deactivated within 24 hours of the domain name expiring. The registrar will typically hold the domain which prevents your website and email from working. However, this also means that you will be able to renew the domain name for the normal price if you want.

When the domain is expired it is not possible to transfer to another registrar unless you first renew it. This makes it difficult to manage expired domain names.

A domain name will generally stay expired for between 0 and 45 days, depending on the registrar’s policies and processes.

Redemption (Grace) Period

At the conclusion of the expired period, the domain name will enter a 30 day redemption period. During this period the majority of registrars will delete all the information about the domain. The domain will be removed which will make getting it back very expensive. Most registrars will charge a lot of money during this period to recover the domain.

Pending Delete Period

After the 30 day redemption period, the domain name enters the pending delete period for 5 days. At this time, the domain cannot be restored. This domain is destined for deletion from the registry, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You will need to wait while the domain name is deleted before you can register it again. This also means that other people can register the domain which risks you losing it.

Lesson Learned: Renew Early!

If you want to keep a domain name then the best thing to do is renew as early as possible. This will save money and also reduce the risk of you losing the domain. Many registrars will automatically handle renewals if you allow them. This makes it possible to simply add your credit card to your account and the domain will be renewed automatically until you decide to cancel.

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4 Responses to “Understanding the Domain Name Lifecycle”

  1. Sean says:

    Who sets the renewal cost? I believe it is the registrar, correct?

    1. The registries set the wholesale and premium pricing for domain names, and then the registrars set the retail pricing (how much of a mark-up they will charge or discount they will apply, if applicable).

      1. Sean says:

        So I am a college student looking to set up a portfolio website for my programming. I have found a very good domain that is available, but it would cost ~840$ and 150$ a year after that, which I could barely pay if I reduce my dining plan to only raman and nothing else.

        Can I shop around the different registries to find a lower price? So far,, go daddy, and dream host have all listed similar prices, which surprises me.

        Does ICANN own the registries?

  2. Kimberlee Sparhawk says:

    That was a great post. I enjoyed it very much.

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