“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds,” the anonymous voice would say to Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible (the superior original TV series, not the increasingly yawn-inducing movies). The same could be said to happen to your Nintendo Switch account data when upgrading to new hardware.
Why would you want to transfer data to a new Switch? The Nintendo Switch V2 replaced the original hardware in 2019, differentiated from the original by tweaks to the processor for better battery life. That extra couple of hours of battery life (about 90 minutes in our initial tests) was enough for some people to trade in their original hardware. There’s also the undockable Switch Lite, which costs less. Plus, the revamped OLED-screen Switch is expected in October. All these models, however, are part of the same platform and run the same games.
Actually getting your games from one Switch to another is a potentially daunting process, at least on paper. The short version is that you log into your Nintendo account from the new Switch, and you get a message asking if you intend to keep your old device or not. If the answer is yes, you’re informed how to transfer saved data for individual games. If the answer is no, the process is to transfer over your full account info and data to the new console.
In either case, be prepared to have whatever data was transferred automatically deleted from the old Switch. Why the extreme self-destruct policy? To call some of Nintendo’s online policies and practices opaque would be an understatement.
If you’re doing trade-in or other swap, that involves having both old and new Switch consoles together, plugging both in, getting on the same wifi, and then waiting for the process to complete. My colleague Ashley Esqueda did just that back in 2019, transferring her saves as part of a trade-in right at a retail store. She describes the process (and it’s a bit of a hassle) in great detail in this excellent Twitter thread. Other caveats:
This is a one-user-at-a-time process, so you’ll have to repeat it for each user account on your Switch and each user account will need an actual Nintendo account login (no, they’re not the same, yes it’s confusing).
A Switch can currently contain a maximum of eight user accounts.
Even fully charged, both Switch systems needed to be connected to power.
In practice, the process was fast and fairly straightforward. The part that took the longest was re-downloading a game to try out. Once we’re done, we will attempt to transfer the same account back to the original Switch and will update this story with any issues or problems.
As a reminder: The V2 version of the Switch can be identified by its red box and unique serial number. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.