How to Move or Transfer Google Authenticator Codes to a New Phone.
Google offers a free two-factor authentication app called Authenticator. The app is available on both Android and iOS smartphones and is completely free with no ads or in-app purchases. As you know, the Google 2FA app is very simple. In fact, they made the interface too simple and forgot to add a way to securely transfer Google Authenticator data, scanned codes to another phone. That is, until recently, there was no way to move or transfer Google Authenticator codes to a new phone.
Transfer Google Authenticator to a new phone
Google recently updated its version of the Authenticator app for Android, adding a way to import and export existing scanned 2FA codes to a new phone. It’s a welcome sign because other apps like Microsoft Authenticator and Authy support this feature. They have had it for a long time.
On the other hand, the iPhone and iPad iOS app still lacks the transfer function. There is no news from Google when they will hand it over to their Android counterpart. Until the update came out, it became easier to port Authenticator from Android to Android, but the same cannot be said when it comes to iOS to iOS or between Android and iOS in either direction.
This is how it all works.
Also Read: How to Use Android Phone to Verify Google Login on iOS with 2SV
Transfer the Authenticator from Android to Android Phones
Open the Authenticator app on your new Android phone and you’ll be greeted with a help screen explaining how Google Authenticator works. You will then be asked if you would like to transfer your accounts. If you don’t see this default screen and go to the home screen, simply tap on the three-dot menu icon to select the Transfer Accounts option.
Click on Import accounts here if you want to move 2FA codes from your old phone to this phone, and click on Export accounts if you want to transfer 2FA codes from your old phone to your new phone. Let’s take a look at both options in turn.
At this point, you will be asked to enter your smartphone password for security reasons so that no one can export data to their phone without your permission. It’s not immediately clear what this screen means because it doesn’t say â€œenter your phone passwordâ€ or anything else. Just an empty field. I spent a few minutes entering my Google account password instead. You also cannot take screenshots of this screen, again for security reasons.
You should now see a list of all the accounts stored in your Authenticator app. Select the ones you want to move to your new phone and click Next. Download and install the Google Authenticator app on your new phone and scan the QR code you see on your old phone at this point. All selected 2FA codes will be transferred from the old phone to the new one after the scan completes automatically.
On your new phone, you have to go to Settings Transfer Account Import Account and not hit the plus sign to scan the new QR code as usual. These two variants of QR codes are not the same.
Also read: Authy vs Google Authenticator – Which One Is Better?
Understand the security aspect
Unlike some other 2FA apps, Google stores all data locally on your phone in an encrypted format to keep it safe. This data cannot be read even if your phone is lost, stolen or hacked. You can and should erase data from your phone using the Google Find My Device app available from the Play Store.
Since the data is not stored online in the cloud on a remote server, it never syncs across two devices at the same time. While this may be a bit of a hassle for some of you, it is actually much safer. For example, when you scan a 2FA code in Authy on one device, it will automatically appear on the other device on which you installed Authy. While Authy also encrypts data and takes many precautions, the data is still in the cloud and moving through the servers.
Moving 2FA codes in this manner is more tedious and manual in nature, but takes less than a minute and is safer and more reliable.
Also Read: How to Sign in to Google Account without Verification Code
Transfer Authenticator from iOS to iOS, on iOS to Android, and vice versa
The Authenticator app will show a short message on a blue background that says “Accounts were recently exported” the next time you launch the app. You can also view a list of all import and export operations in the Recent Activities section. It contains more details such as the number of imported / exported accounts, the date and time of activity, and the Google email id for the Authenticator account. You will also find a link to reset two-step verification on your Google account if you think it has been hacked.
The iOS version of the Google Authenticator app still lacks account transfer functionality. I hope this will happen soon, because I myself want to protect myself from future failures by storing all 2FA codes on two different devices. The likelihood that I will lose both phones at the same time is pretty low.
Tip: Use your old spare smartphone and install the Authenticator app on it to further reduce the chances of losing access to 2FA codes and blocking your account to zero. Keep it in your office or home just in case.
Right now, you will need to log into every account you have using your ID, password and 2FA code, and re-scan the 2FA codes manually on your new phone. This will require removing the 2FA protection from the specified account after logging in, re-enabling it, and re-scanning the QR code from the new phone.
Google hasn’t shared a timeline for when they are going to release the new update, so it’s anyone’s guess.
Also Read: 6 Best 2FA Apps and Key Security Devices to Sign In Safely Anywhere
Smart Hack for Backing Up 2FA Codes
Just take a screenshot of the QR code and save it in a safe place. You can encrypt your data, save it to your personal Microsoft OneDrive, which encrypts and protects it, or just print it and save it offline. Anyway, you now have a real QR code in hand and you can scan it anytime with any 2FA app you like. Of course, saving backup codes safely is the traditional way for most people.
Wrap around: Transfer the authenticator to a new phone
The process of migrating the Authenticator app from Android to Android is very simple and easy. It takes less than a minute. IPhone and iPad users are out of luck, but I believe there will be a solution soon. You just need to be patient. Until then, use your old phone, re-scan all codes, or go to an app like Authy.