23andMe Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files

In this Upload-Download series, we’ll cover each major vendor:

  • How to download raw data files from the vendor
  • How to upload raw data files to the vendor, if possible
  • Other mainstream vendors where you can upload this vendor’s files

Uploading TO 23andMe

This part is easy with 23andMe, because 23andMe doesn’t accept any other vendor’s files. There is no ability to upload TO 23andMe. You have to test with 23andMe if you want results from 23andMe.

Downloading FROM 23andMe

In order to transfer your autosomal DNA file to another testing vendor, or GedMatch, for either matching or ethnicity, you’ll need to first download the file from 23andMe.

Download Step 1

Sign on to your account at 23andMe.

23andMe download

Under your name at the upper right-hand corner of your page, by clicking on the little circle with your initials, you’ll see “Browse Raw Data.” Click there.

Download Step 2

23andMe download 2

You’ll see “Your Raw Data.” Click on the blue download link.

Download Step 3

On the Download Raw Data page, scroll down towards the bottom until you see “Request your raw data download.”

23andMe download 3

Click on Submit request.

Download Step 4

You’ll see the following message saying an e-mail will be sent to you.

23andMe download 4

Download Step 5

A few minutes later, an e-mail will arrive that says this:

23andMe download 5

Click on the green button in the e-mail which will take you back to 23andMe to sign in.

Download Step 6

After you sign in, you’ll be immediately at the download page and will see the following.

23andMe download 6

Your raw data file will be downloaded to your computer where you’ll need to store it in a location and by a name that you can find.

The file name will be something like “genome_Roberta_Estes_v2_v3_Full_xxxxxxxx” where the xs are a long number. I would suggest adding the word 23andMe to the front when you save the file on your system.

Most vendors want an unopened zip file, so if you want to open your file, first copy it to another name. Otherwise, you’ll have to download again.

23andMe File Transfers to Other Vendors

23andMe files can be in one any one of four formats:

  • V2 – the earliest tests taken at 23andMe. V2 test takers were offered an upgrade to V3.
  • V3 – V3 files beginning December 2010 through December 2013
  • V4 – V4 files beginning December 2013 through August 2017
  • V5 – V5 files beginning August 2017 through present

The changes in the files due to chip differences sometimes cause issues with transfers to other vendors who utilize other testing chips.

Your upload results to other vendors’ sites will vary in terms of both matching and ethnicity accuracy based on your 23andMe version number, as follows:

From below to >>>>>>> Family Tree DNA Accepts * MyHeritage Accepts** GedMatch Accepts *** Ancestry Accepts LivingDNA Accepts ****
23andMe V2 No Yes Yes No Yes
23andMe V3 Yes, fully compatible Yes Yes No Yes
23andMe V4 Yes, partly compatible Yes Yes No Yes
23andMe V5 No Yes Yes No Yes

* The transfer to Family Tree DNA and matching is free, but advanced tools including the chromosome browser and ethnicity require a one-time $19 unlock fee. That fee is less expensive than retesting, but V4 customers should consider retesting to obtain fully compatible matching. V4 tests won’t receive all of the distant matches that they would if they tested at Family Tree DNA

** MyHeritage  and Family Tree DNA use the same testing chip, but MyHeritage utilizes a technique known as imputation to achieve compatibility between different vendors files. The transfer and matching is free, but advanced tools require a one-time $29 unlock fee unless you are a MyHeritage subscriber. You can read about the various options here.

***GedMatch recently transitioned to their Genesis platform and is still working on matching between multiple vendors highly disparate chips with little overlapping test regions. Patience is key. Matching is free, but the more advanced features require a Tier 1 subscription for $10 per month.

**** LivingDNA accepts files, but their matching is still in an early testing phase. They have also just changed DNA testing chips so the net effect is unknown. I will review their features later in 2019.

23andMe Testing and Transfer Strategy

My recommendation, if you’ve tested at 23andMe, depending on your test version, is as follows:

  • V2 – Upgrade (retest) at 23andMe to newer test version.
  • V3 – Transfer to Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch
  • V4 or V5 – Test at either Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage and transfer to the other one. You never know which match is going to break down that brick wall, and it would be a shame to miss it because you transferred rather than retested.

Step by Step Transfer Instructions

I wrote step by step transfer instructions for:

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay, but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

16 thoughts on “23andMe Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files

  1. Hi Roberta, my comment is unrelated to the above post, but I hope you will answer anyway – can’t find an email address for you. I note you are administrator for the ‘Bolton’ project in myFTDNA. I have just now entered my son, being a Bolton, in the project after his Y-DNA and autosomal tests didn’t come up with useful information. We are seeking his grandfather’s background as we don’t know anything about him other than he came from the UK. My son did not do a mitochondial test as I already did that for myself – and I am not a Bolton, I only married one. However, should you need this data, can it be transferred from my test?

    • Hi Lene. If you click on the Bolton project page, my e-mail address is there. All admins are required to have their e-mail shown so people can contact them. Mitochondrial won’t help your son with his Bolton heritage. Sometimes it’s a waiting game to see who else Y DNA tests in time. Also, on his Family Finder test, search using the Bolton surname so that you can see anyone else with Bolton in their surname list. Lastly, use the Advanced matching to see a combination of both the FF test and matches within the project. We have females too who don’t have Y DNA to compare. robertajestes at att.net

  2. Roberta, I had a lengthy conversation with Ancestry folks today and learned that
    their DNA kits have expiration dates (not noted on the kits). They told me that the
    one kit in my closet was probably outdated (purchased in 2017) and the only way of
    knowing if it was functional was to open it up and check out the blue liquid. I suggested that this was not very workable as I had planned on driving many miles to a cousin’s
    house and using the DNA kit and what was I to do when I wasn’t sure if the kit was
    OK or not? Ancestry is mailing me a replacement kit, but they were not able to
    tell me how long I could hold it before it was suspect. They were vague about
    if 12 month old kits were suspect or not. One of my concerns is that this is the first
    that I have heard about life spans of kits and there is nothing on the kit that talks
    about expiration or how to store the kit. Perhaps you can enlighten all of us
    with clearer information about this and maybe you have an inside track into Ancestry
    so that you can get clearer information from higher up folks. LIke you, I have
    extra kits available so that I can offer testing to relatives who might otherwise not be
    willing to be tested. thanks Bill

      • Roberta, thanks for your quick answer. There is actually more to the story. I didn’t realize that Ancestry had changed their DNA process from what I had done earlier and
        when I called to find out why I hadn’t been notified regarding the finishing of the testing,
        I was told that one had to validate the test for it to be tested at the lab. One of the two
        tests had been sent to Ancestry about 13 months ago and was sitting in the lab untested
        as I foolishly didn’t realize that it had to be validated. When I tried to validate it, the
        system wouldn’t allow it be done. When I called Ancestry they told me that kits
        that had been in the lab for more than 12 months were considered degraded and
        they would not use it after that 12 month period. (it was my fault it was old as
        it was a kit connected to my sister’s work and I was too depressed to get involved
        with it after she died) Anyhow, Ancestry has a written rule that utilized kits that are
        over 12 months old, will not be processed in the lab. It was after this conversation
        that the Ancestry employee told me that I also had to be concerned about the age of
        unutilized kits. I mentioned that I had one left from the last bunch that I had purchased during a sale time and that was when the employee suggested that it was too old.
        It seems very strange to me that the Ancestry kits don’t have expiration dates on them
        if indeed they can get too old to be used. Also, one has to wonder how long kits
        are sitting with Ancestry before they mail them out. There is also no warning that
        kits should be stored in cool places or otherwise. Thanks again, Bill

    • I typically buy batches of Ancestry DNA test kits and keep them on hand for cousin and adoptee testing. I’ve used kits that have been up to two years old and they have still worked just fine. I gone through about 25-30 kits per year for some time now without any issues. I think it’s mostly about the blue preservative having dried up. I’ve never seen a kit where that has happened, but have full confidence Ancestry would replace without question.

      • Phyllis, Thanks for the answer and information. Since I buy fewer than you do, I was concerned about travelling long distances and finding that a kit was degraded when
        I opened it for a cousin to use. I understand that Ancestry will replace them, but the trip will be for naught if the kit is not useable when I need it. I was just surprised when
        the Ancestry employee was concerned about shelf life and expiration of a kit. In the future I plan on writing the date that I received the kit on the box, so that I know for sure
        when it came into my possession. Thanks again Bill

        • Yea, and if they resend one, that doesn’t mean the person can or will do it if you needed to go in the first place.

          • Roberta, thanks for the comment and yes that was my concern as well. I am planning
            a big trip to Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia and hope to have several distant cousins do their DNA so that we can further prove our relatedness. I was certainly not trying to
            say anything negative about Ancestry. In fact the new compare function at Ancestry is
            what broke open the door to a decades long mystery as to the parents and family of one of our double great grandmothers. I was able to use my sister’s DNA and the DNA of two cousins who are only related via one family line to find Ancestry members who are
            related to all or most of the 4 of us. thanks again Bill

  3. Hi Roberta
    I was very surprised, and upset, this week when my cousin’s just arrived FTDNA Family Finder raw data was rejected as “invalid” by MyHeritage when I uploaded it. I telephoned to ask why. I was told that they have not resolved some issues since January 2018, since when they have been unable to upload from FTDNA. They are still “working on it” and I should try again some unspecified time in the future. They said they would not make an announcement of when this problem had been solved, to enable people like me who subscribe, to know it was time to try again.
    If I had known I could not upload from FTDNA, I might have paid for my cousin to have tested with MyHeritage. Your comments please.
    Pat

    (I have been reading your blog for many years, and enjoy it.)

    • It’s a file format issue and will be fixed. My comment, “patience.” For genealogists, that’s difficult, I know:)

  4. My goal is to send your instructions to other so they understand how to download and upload their DNA. Do you have your articles here in a PDF format which can be sent as an attachment to someone else? Any suggestions?

    Thanks

  5. Pingback: DNA Testing and Transfers – What’s Your Strategy? | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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