Your Nintendo Switch is loaded up with precious game save data, not to mention your prized screenshots and gripping gameplay recordings. You don’t need to upgrade to the new Switch OLED, but if you are—or you just need to swap from one console to another—you’ll need to transfer all of this data over. There are a couple of ways to do it.
Transferring save game data and your screengrabs involve different processes, and for the latter, you’ll need a separate MicroSD card. Things are also very different (in a good way) if you pay for Nintendo Switch Online. Here, we break down all the details so you can follow the process that best applies to you. Here’s how to transfer your Switch data.
How to transfer save data and user profiles
Your most precious data—all the save data and progress you’ve made in your games—is tied to the user profile you created when you first set up your Switch. It’s the profile you pick each time you start a game, with a name and an avatar. All of that associated data is stored on your Switch and needs to be copied over to your new console.
There are two ways to do this, and one of them costs money. If you subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, then this process is (much) easier.
Method 1: If you have Nintendo Switch Online
When you first sign up for Nintendo Switch Online, your games will automatically be set to back up data to the cloud. However, you can individually control which games get backed up, and you can manually back up data by heading to Settings > Data Management > Save Data Cloud.
On your new Switch, log in to your Nintendo account. You can either do this during the normal setup process when you first get your Switch or by selecting an existing profile from the home page and selecting “Link Nintendo Account.” When you do, you’ll be able to manually download save data for each game by heading to the aforementioned settings page. To redownload your games, head to the Nintendo eShop, tap on your profile picture on the top right, and go to Redownload.
You can keep playing games on both Switches if you plan to keep both. Just make sure you toggle on Automatic Save-Data Download in Settings > Data Management > Save Data Cloud > Settings. This makes sure that the save file is always updated to the newest data no matter which Switch is being used, meaning you can pick up where you left off on any of your consoles.
If another person in the household wants to play a game you own on the older console, the Switch will need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and you’ll need to deregister it as the primary console after you transfer, which we get to further below.
It’s worth noting that Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a special process for transferring your island from one Switch to a new system. You can read the instructions here. Also, developers can choose to disable syncing cloud game saves, so some games like Splatoon 2 and Pokémon Sword and Shield won’t transfer over. If that happens, you can transfer them manually with the steps below.
Method 2: If you don’t have Nintendo Switch Online
If you don’t have a Nintendo Switch Online and don’t want to get it, you can still transfer data over, but it’s a little more annoying. You’ll need both Switch devices handy, as well as an Internet connection and a Nintendo account. Make sure the profile you want to transfer is signed into your Nintendo account on the Switch you’re transferring data from.
Important note: Don’t sign in to your Nintendo account on the console you want to transfer data to. If you link your Nintendo account to a profile on the new Switch, this process won’t be able to merge them, so wait until you’re instructed to sign in.
Once everything is ready, you can follow these steps on both the source Switch you’re transferring data from, and on the target Switch you’re transferring data to:
- Go to System Settings from the home screen.
- Select Users from the left-hand menu.
- Select Transfer Your User and Save Data.
- Click Next.
At this point, the process for each console will diverge. On the old Switch, choose Source console, and click Continue. On the new Switch, choose Target console. You’ll then be able to sign into the Nintendo account that’s associated with the profile you want to transfer.