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Computers

How to transfer your Nintendo Switch account to a new Switch V2

It's not hard to do, but your original data will self-destruct.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET

"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 bland movies). The same could be said to happen to your Nintendo Switch account data when upgrading to new hardware. The Nintendo Switch V2 is in stores now, and is differentiated from the original only by some processor tweaks for better battery life. But, that extra couple of hours of battery life (about 90 minutes in our initial tests) is enough for some people to trade in their original hardware. 

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. 

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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, 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. 

We tried it here in the relative comfort of the CNET Labs, transferring an entire account from an original Switch to the new V2 Switch. 

Here's how it went:

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First make sure both Switch systems are updated to the latest system software. Start with your old Switch. Go to System Settings > Users > Transfer your user data.

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Click through to the Source Console option and hit Continue. 

Turn on the new Switch, and follow the same path: System Settings > Users > Transfer. 

Choose the Target Console option. 

From the Sign In option, sign into your Nintendo Account.

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If both consoles are on the same wifi network, the original Switch should see its target, and the data will be transferred. 

Note that that user account will be vaporized from the original Switch, and you'll have to re-download the actual games. 

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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 new Switch can be identified with its red box and unique serial number. It's also now being sold at online retailers, as listed below. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.