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I'm helping out a friend manage his website. Said friend has a domain, website.com, which I am transferring from his old host (OLD) to his new host (NEW), but OLD does not provide email services (or, at least, not intuitively). As a result, he wants both:

  1. To host the website at NEW
  2. To use the email servers at OLD so he can continue using the email accounts he set up there.

The move from OLD to NEW has taken place, and I have updated the DNS records so they no longer point at ns1.old.com, and now point instead at ns1.new.com, and so on.

But having searched around a bit for the solution to the email aspect, I'm a little uncertain. I've updated the MX record at NEW to point back to ns1.OLD.com, but emails are still failing - and I'm sure the reason for this is obvious, but I'm not quite grasping what I need to do here.

As I understand it, the process ought to be as follows:

  1. Mail sent to account@website.com
  2. website.com routes the mail to the host at NEW
  3. NEW then uses the new MX record to rout it to the servers at OLD
  4. Hey presto, the email should appear in the email inbox at account@website.com at OLD.

But this isn't happening. I get a 550 error telling me to turn on SMTP authentication, which I've read is a sure sign that I've got the MX configuration wrong. Any assistance on this would be really greatly appreciated.

tl;dr: Friend wants to move site hosting to NEW, but keep email hosting at OLD - I don't know what to do with MX and nameservers and so on to make this happen.

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If you intend to keep the mail flowing to the old hosting provider then you need to duplicate the MX and associated A records from your previous DNS host to your new DNS host.

The “website” has nothing to do with mail flow and doesn’t “redirect” anything.

When a sender addresses mail to your account@mydomain.com:

  • The sender’s email server looks up the MX record in DNS for mydomain.com. The MX record points to one or more hostnames like mailserver.mydomain.com, or mailserver.someotheremailhost.com where mail can be delivered for mydomain.com.
  • Then the sender’s email server looks up an A record for the hostname it received in the previous step and gets an IP address.
  • The sender’s email server then connects to the IP address obtained in the last step on port 25 to deliver the mail.

The website never comes in to play and the new servers hosting the website never come in to play. Simply copy the MX records and associated A records from the old DNS / registrar to the new DNS / registrar.

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