How To Transfer Nintendo Switch Save Data To A New Console
Trying to transfer Nintendo Switch data to a new console? Here's what you should know.
Since its release in March 2017, the Nintendo Switch console family has expanded to include the handheld-only Switch Lite and a newer model that features a more capable battery. A limited-edition Animal Crossing version of the newer model Switch just released on March 13, and those who bought a new Switch despite owning an older model are probably wondering how the Switch data transfer process works.
For every other console family, setting up your account and accessing your games on a new system is a straightforward process. This usually involves logging into an account with your email and password on the new system, and at worst, deactivating your old one online or via the console's settings menu. Unfortunately, Nintendo has never made it this easy, and the Switch transfer process is no different. CNET's Ashley Esqueda gave us a glimpse into her experience transferring to a New Switch.
Here, we've documented our experience with transferring data from an old Switch to a new one and the steps you'll need to take. Plus, check out where you can buy the most recent Switch models below.
- Nintendo Switch (new model) -- $300
- Nintendo Switch Lite -- $200
- Animal Crossing-edition Switch -- $300
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
Judge A Switch By Its Cover
First thing's first: how do you know you're buying the newer model Switch if it's actually selling under the original name? It's easier than you think: just look for the big red box. This might be somewhat difficult if you're shopping at a store that pulls systems from storage at the time of purchase, but just kindly ask for the Switch without the mysterious hand on the box, bear with the confused look from the unsure clerk, and smile politely while they head to the back to dig for your Switch.
You can also discern a new Switch from an old model by looking at the serial number: The old models start with a serial number "XAW" while the new model will start with the serial number "XKW."
Open New Switch, Take In The Factory-Fresh Fumes
Though it's an obvious step that doesn't need to be explained, there's something to be said for the feeling of opening a brand-new console. Untouched by greasy fingers, free from scratches or scuffs, it's a new opportunity to obsess over keeping the plastic and glass pristine. Enjoy it while it lasts; good intentions can't protect you from the inevitable.
Before you start the transfer process, you should ensure that both systems are plugged into a power source and are up-to-date with the latest system software.
Here's The Deal...
When you start the transfer process (by going into System Settings > Users > Transfer Your User Data) you are greeted with a screen warning you that whichever Switch you're transferring from will lose the relevant profile data in the process--a classic Nintendo caveat. You will then see another screen that reaffirms the fact that none of the previously installed games will be playable on the source system after the transfer is complete.
Just One More Thing...
So you know that your games aren't going to carry over, but you expect your profile and save data will. That much is true, but just in case you assumed that would also include your in-game screenshots and gameplay videos, Nintendo has a friendly reminder that, no, you won't be transferring your snaps and clips. If you want those, you'll have to grab them via an SD card.
Power? Check. Proximity? Check. Engage!
With all of the warnings out of the way, you should be in the clear to initiate the transfer process so long as your two Switch systems are close to one another and they are both plugged into a power source. Make sure you pick the correct Switch as the source and the other as the target. With that done, you can set the transfer in motion.
Sit Back And Relax
Assuming everything goes according to plan--it didn't for me, but more on that in a second--you should only have to wait a few minutes for your profile to free itself from the previous system and fly to its new home. Now, how could this go wrong, you ask?
When Do Things Ever Go According To Plan?
Wouldn't you know it, the Switch I was transferring from lost its connection to the free WiFi network I was on and my transfer was cut short at the last second. This didn't hurt either Switch nor did it doom my profile and save data to the ether, but word to the wise: if you can, wait until you are on a tried-and-tested network before transferring.
At Least Nintendo Planned Ahead
Despite the scare, Nintendo put contingencies in place for just such an issue, as mentioned. Needless to say this screen was a relief after fearing the worst for my Switch profile and saves.
We're Done! Right?
Once your transfer completes you'll be greeted by this screen. Congrats! You're done! You're not? What the...
Because Of Course
In the case of our new Switch, we had to update the JoyCons. It's a small inconvenience, but it's yet another step between you and enjoying Switch games on your new system.
If only it were the last.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Ah, that's right! Nintendo made sure to note that we would lose access to downloaded games after the transfer. Yet, sitting here staring at a blank Switch homescreen is when it really hits home: you must redownload and reinstall your games. Time to pop in your SD card and get to...wait, what now?
Wouldn't you know it: the Switch, even after years of updates packed into my fresh install, doesn't support high-capacity SD cards without an update. I suppose I should have seen this coming.
Here We Go!
You've done it. You transferred your profile, updated your Switch at least twice, and maybe even survived a harrowing internet connection scare. Time to hit your Account Information screen in the Eshop and redownload your favorite games. If there's one bit of advice to relay here, it's to only focus on the games you really want to play. If you're like me your previous Switch was loaded up with rainy-day games, but I would also frequently delete some of them to make room for new games as they came out. It wouldn't hurt to leave some breathing room on your new Switch, just sayin'.
What If You Have More Than One Account?
Just in case you are curious: yes, you can transfer additional accounts from your previous Switch to the new one, such as I did with my Japanese Eshop account. It seems like a no brainer, but all things considered, I had my doubts.
While we certainly wish that Nintendo had adopted the common practice of letting you play your games on any system with your username and password, we'll have to accept that it wants to keep a tight grip on your account and purchases. Was all the hassle worth it? Time will tell. The new Switch's key feature is the extended battery, and that will only prove to be valuable (or not) over time.
So while I get cracking on burning energy in the name of science, lend us your thoughts on the upgraded Switch and the Switch Lite in the comments below.