How To Download 23andMe DNA – An Illustrated Guide

If you’ve tested with 23andMe, you can download your 23andMe DNA results from the website. It’s good practice to keep a local copy of your DNA data in a secure place. This article will take you step-by-step through the process.

You can also upload the file to websites that accept DNA results. We’ll give you a list of reputable sites, and some links for more tutorials.

A Step-by-Step Guide To Downloading Your DNA from 23andMe

Log into your 23andMe account and expand the drop-down menu below your account name.

Click on the “Browse More Data” menu item.

Click “Submit Request” button at the bottom of the Browse page.

Wait for email confirmation from 23andMe that your file is ready.

Come back to the Browse DNA page and move to the “Download” tab.

Click the blue “Download raw data” button.

Where Is the 23andMe Raw DNA File?

Your raw DNA results come down as a zip file to the Downloads folder on your local machine.

On a Windows machine, this will be at c:\users\[username]\downloads.

On a Mac, it’s probably easiest to access the Downloads folder from the Dock.

How To Identify the 23andMe Raw DNA File

There could be hundreds of other files in your Downloads folder. But if you’ve just downloaded the file, it should be at the top of the list (sorted by date descending).

The file name starts with “genome” and includes your account name. A recent download of mine is named as this: genome_Margaret_OB_v5_Full_20201116115228.zip

The “v” number tells you which version of the DNA chip was used to test your kit. Mine is version 5.

What Do The 23andMe File Contents Look Like?

You may be surprised that there is a simple (but large) text file inside the zip. There’s no harm in taking a peek at the contents. Just be sure you don’t modify it in any way.

The lines at the top that start with a hash (#) are descriptive. If you are going to use this file on sites like GEDmatch, it may be useful to know the build number as well as the chip version. The description in my file tells me it’s build 37.

Underneath the description lies the gold: your raw DNA.

The first few lines of my raw DNA look like below. (I’ve tidied up the column formatting a bit – they may be out of whack in yours).

See the letters under the genotype column? You may be getting flashbacks to high school biology. If you’re interested in reading up on the genetic science behind what you’re seeing, I’ve got a review of Blaine Bettinger’s introductory guide to Genetic Genealogy. I do recommend it.

But you don’t need to dive into this in-depth to make great use of your DNA file.

Keep A Secure Copy Of Your Raw 23andMe DNA

You should protect your raw DNA file in the same way that you secure your banking information. That could be a password-protected folder, or in offline storage.

You may be wondering why you should have your own copy. 23andMe may change its policy of allowing access to the raw data. They mightn’t take access away completely. But they could decide to lump the download button into their premium option.

I’ve written before about a 23andMe policy change in 2020 where they moved features behind a premium paywall. And some of us outside the United States couldn’t even pay the extras to get access to functionality we used to have.

Uploading Your 23andMe DNA File To Other Sites

These are some sites where I’ve uploaded my DNA. All accept 23andMe files and have a free tier.

  • MyHeritage
  • FamilyTreeDNA
  • GEDmatch
  • Living DNA

Be sure to review the privacy and security of any site before uploading your DNA. The listed companies all have policies on their websites. You can choose to opt out of some features – such as research projects.

And be comfortable about the policy towards easy access to law enforcement agencies. Some sites work more closely than others with forensic investigators.

Our Video Walkthroughs On YouTube

We also have a guide on this website about uploading DNA and getting started with GEDmatch.

Adoption And Unknown Parentage

If you are coming to family research with very little knowledge of your heritage, then the general advice is to fish in many pools.

In other words, transfer your DNA to all the reputable sites (as long as you accept their security and privacy policies).

Our article on DNA Tests For Adopted Adults covers a step-by-step strategy for investigating unknown heritage using multiple DNA sites.

More Articles And Tutorials?

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Margaret O'Brien

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