Purge your Yahoo account

There are about 1.5 billion reasons to want to cancel your Yahoo account. Don't do that!

According to Yahoo's account deletion page, they "may allow other users to sign up for and use your current Yahoo! ID and profile names after your account has been deleted":

Yahoo account reuse policy

This is a terrible policy not shared by other service providers, and there are many scenarios where it's a huge security problem for Yahoo's users. For example:

  • You register for Facebook with your me@yahoo.com email address.
  • You forget about that, read about the newest Yahoo user database hack, and delete your Yahoo account.
  • A month later, someone else signs up to get your me@yahoo.com email address. They use Facebook's password reset mechanism to take control of your account, download your private photos, and say nasty things to your friends.
  • Oh, and anyone you forgot to share your new address with is still sending personal communications to your old Yahoo address, and its new owner is reading them.

Here's what you should do instead:

Purge your Yahoo account

It's time to move on. Yahoo has a terrible security track record and shows no signs of improving.

First, understand what you'll be doing here. You'll be removing everything from your Yahoo account: your email, contacts, events, and so on. Permanently. There's no changing your mind. It's extreme, sure, but until you do it's likely that hackers can:

  • Read messages from your spouse or partner.
  • See your calendar events to know when you'll be away from the house.
  • Take over your account and start resetting every password associated with it, like Facebook, Amazon, and your bank.

Don't delete your account. Clean it out!

Secure it

Before doing anything else, change your Yahoo password! Hackers probably have your current one. I'm not exaggerating.

Once that's done, turn on two-factor authentication (2FA). This can prevent hackers from accessing your account even if they get your password.

Once that's done, make a note to yourself to turn on 2FA for every other account you have that supports it.

Make your new home

Before you start, you'll want to create an email account with a new provider. Lots of people like Gmail but pick one that looks good to you. This will be your new home account on the Internet: the email address that you give out to friends and coworkers and that you use to log into websites.

Clear your email

  • Log into your Yahoo mail.
  • Click the little checkbox above your emails to select all of them. Select all and Delete
  • Click the Delete button to delete all email on that page. If you have lots of messages, you may have to repeat this several times.
  • Hover over the Trash mailbox to make the trashcan icon appear. Click the trashcan. Empty the Trash icon
  • Confirm that you want to empty your trash. Empty the Trash folder confirmation

Clear everything else

If you're like most people, that's probably 99% of your Yahoo data. You're not quite done yet, though! Now click through each of the services in the little icons in the top left corner:

Service icons

They all may have more information stored in them. Each works a little differently but you should be able to figure out how to clean out each one.

Set a vacation reminder

Other email providers make it easy to forward all of your incoming mail to a new account. Yahoo removed that feature recently so you can't use that convenient approach. Instead, you'll make a Vacation Response to tell people about your new address.

  • Click the settings gear in the top right corner.
  • Choose Settings, then Vacation Response.
  • Check the box to "Enable automatic response", and set the Until: year to as far in the future as it will let you.

Vacation Response settings * Enter a message like:

I may now be reached at me@example.com. Please update your address book. Thanks!

  • Click Save.

Now anyone writing to you will get a message with your new address, but their email will still land in your Yahoo inbox.

Change your logins

Now go through your web accounts and change all of them where you log in with me@yahoo.com to use your new email address instead. If you use a password manager to keep track of your accounts, this will be easy. Time consuming - thanks, Yahoo! - but easy.

Check back

You're going to miss a few accounts, and some friends or family will stubbornly insist on sending email to your old address. Set a reminder or mark your calendar to check your Yahoo mail a month from now to see who's written to you. Update each of those people or accounts, then delete all of your new messages. Check again in another month and then another after that. Eventually this will slow to a trickle and you can forget about your old Yahoo account for many months at a time (or until the next news article about a giant Yahoo hack comes along, and then you can smile to yourself because it doesn't affect you anymore).

Conclusion

Migrating off Yahoo is a pain in the neck. Google, in contrast, makes it easy to extract all your information and then securely close your account. Yahoo does not. It won't be quick or painless, but I recommend that you start now.