Suffering data loss on Nintendo Switch isn’t uncommon. You can re-download games in time, but losing saved game files can put a stop to hundreds of hours of progress. Even worse, starting over can’t bring limited-time items and benefits back. But what causes Nintendo Switch data loss? Well, 32 GB of internal storage isn’t enough nowadays, and Nintendo Switch supports up to 2 TB of external memory. Most people opt for cheap, slow, low-quality SD cards with a large storage capacity. Unfortunately, those can start corrupting files, causing errors, and wiping data before breaking down. To both prevent and recover from it, here’s how to recover Nintendo Switch data.
1. Ensure Nintendo Switch data recovery before a factory reset
This is a method for people who think ahead and look for steps before going through with it. So, you plan to refresh your Nintendo Switch but don’t want to lose the data on it. Good, the option exists. After a factory reset, game files will be deleted from internal storage and microSD card. On the other hand, screenshots, videos, user information, and save data will remain safe. Follow these steps to perform a Nintendo Switch factory reset without losing user data:
- Make sure Nintendo Switch is powered off. Hold the Power Button down for 12 seconds to force shut down.
- Press and hold Volume Up (+) and Volume Down (-) buttons together.
- Press the Power button to start the console.
- Don’t release the hold on Volume buttons until you see a Nintendo Recovery Mode menu appear.
- Tap on Restore Factory Settings Without Deleting Save Data.
- If prompted for a PIN configured by Parental Controls, enter it.
- Tap on Next, then on Restore Factory Settings Without Deleting Save Data again.
- Once it reboots, start reinstalling video games (method 5) and continue where you left off.
2. Recover Nintendo Switch data from a local backup
Nintendo Switch supports manual backups to a Windows and with low success chance, Mac computer. Keep in mind that this only works between two Nintendo Switch devices since systems have different formatting rules. For this to work, you must do three things:
- Have a manual Nintendo Switch backup you made in the past.
- Have a blank, formatted SD card. Overwriting existing data won’t work.
- Copy the entire backup folder you extracted from a Nintendo Switch SD card in the past. Don’t alter, split, or erase the files inside.
1. How to format a microSD card for Nintendo Switch
Feel free to skip this step if you have done this. To format a microSD card used for a Nintendo Switch, insert it and then:
- On the HOME Menu, select System Settings.
- Scroll down and tap on System.
- Scroll down on the right-hand side options until you find Initialize.
- Enter a Parental Controls PIN if prompted.
- Tap on Format microSD card, then Continue.
- When given a warning, tap on Format.
- The console will restart and reboot once the process is complete.
2. How to transfer local backup from PC to Nintendo Switch via SD card
Do this to move local backup files from a PC to a Nintendo Switch console using an SD card:
- Remove the microSD card from the console.
- Insert it into the microSD card slot on your PC.
Tip. If you don’t have one, you’ll need a microSD card reader/writer, usually sold in the form of a flash drive. Connect it to the USB slot on your PC.
- Open Windows Explorer/This PC/My Computer on Windows.
- Open the drive that belongs to the microSD card.
- Move the entire backup folder to the root folder of the microSD card.
- Once moving is complete, eject the microSD card.
- Insert it into the Nintendo Switch console and turn it back on.
- Clarification. If the games in the backup weren’t downloaded using the current Nintendo Account, you’ll have to redownload them (method 5) even though all the game files are there.
3. Recover Nintendo Switch data from another Nintendo Switch
The data on one Nintendo Switch can be transferred to a second Nintendo Switch nearby. This is useful if you want to continue progress on another device or if you plan to sell or borrow your current one. Here’s what you should know:
- This doesn’t copy data. Once the process is complete, the game save data is deleted from the source console.
- This only works if two users logged in to two Nintendo Switch consoles use the same Nintendo account.
- Nintendo Switch Online membership isn’t required.
- Internet must be enabled on both consoles, and the system menu must be version 8.0.0 or newer.
Steps to transfer your saved data to a nearby Nintendo Switch
Here’s how moving data between two Nintendo Switch consoles works:
- On the source console, on the HOME menu, select System Settings.
- Tap on Data Management, then Transfer Your Save Data.
- Choose the Send Save Data to Another Console option on the left.
- Tap on the target user profile when prompted: Send save data for which user?
- Select the game from the list, then tap OK.
- Tap on Send Save Data.
- On the target console, repeat steps 1 and 2.
- Select Receive Save Data.
- Wait for the task to complete, then tap on OK.
4. Download Nintendo Switch saved game files from a cloud backup
Here’s how to download game save files from an online Nintendo Switch backup:
- On the HOME menu, tap System Settings.
- When prompted, tap on Open.
- Tap on Data Management.
- Tap on Save Data Cloud.
- Select a user, then select the files in the cloud you want to download.
- When you’re ready, tap on OK and give it some time.
Are there any alternatives?
Yes. You can also enter a specific game from the HOME menu. Then select Save Data Cloud > Download Save Data. Also, an automatic cloud backup download for Nintendo Switch begins when it’s in sleep mode. Enable the Internet and leave the console alone for a while.
This didn’t work. Why?
Here are the requirements for Nintendo Switch cloud backup to work:
- You need an active subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service.
- You must have backed up files to the cloud at least once.
- No more than 180 days since the time you uploaded a cloud backup passed.
- You must sign in with the same Nintendo account.
- The game must be on the same SD card you’re downloading the saved game file for.
Reminder. Existing game save files will be overwritten once the process is complete.
5. How to redownload a game on Nintendo Switch
Once again, this requires an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Once you have that and enough free storage space, follow these steps to download a Nintendo Switch game again:
- On the HOME screen, tap on eShop.
- Select the profile on which the game was bought the first time.
- Do it once again by tapping on Profile in the top right corner.
- In the left-hand side menu, tap on Redownload.
- Tap on the download cloud icon next to the game you want to download again.
- The game will appear in the Game Dock on the home screen when it’s ready.
6. Run chkdsk
We haven’t discussed problems with an SD card on Nintendo Switch yet. Well, now’s the time, since they cause corruption, frequent errors, and forbid you from accessing files. To try and resolve this, you can run a handy tool on Windows, called chkdsk (check disk). It will scan the drive for system errors, and try to repair them. First, connect your microSD card to your PC (revisit method 2). Then, follow the instructions in our “recover hidden files from pendrive” guide, specifically headline How to fix a corrupted pen drive. The only thing you should do is change the drive letter to the one that belongs to the SD card in This PC. However, don’t be confused if Windows assigns the same drive letter to both the pen drive and an SD card. This only happens when the two aren’t connected simultaneously, so you can’t make a mistake.
7. Recover Nintendo Switch data with data recovery software
If you scrolled down to the last method in the guide above, you would’ve seen three ways to recover deleted files from a pen drive. Well, this is possible with microSD cards too. Moreover, two of the three software we demonstrated are capable of scanning microSD cards. We also have a broader list of data recovery software for SD cards. Use it to find a personal favorite if you dislike these two or they prove ineffective. After the recovery is complete, insert the microSD card into the Nintendo Switch again.