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How to transfer your Nintendo Switch saves, data and account to a new Switch

The latest Switch updates make it much easier to move into a new system.

Scott Stein/CNET

Why would you want to transfer data to a new Switch? Even though the basic hardware platform has remained unchanged since 2017, there are now several versions of the hybrid handheld consoles. You might want to upgrade from a standard Switch to the new OLED version. You might want to add the OLED model to your Switch Lite and use both. You might just like collecting Switches. 

The first time we really had to deal with moving an account from one Switch to another was when the V2 version of the original hardware was released in 2019. That model was differentiated from the original by tweaks to the processor for better battery life

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Unfortunately, the way Nintendo handles your account, game permissions and saved-game data is, in typical Nintendo fashion, restrictive and complicated. That said, it's also better than it used to be, which almost always meant transferred data was deleted from your old Switch, even if you were keeping it. 

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Today, it's much easier, thanks to software updates. First make sure both the old and new Switches are updated to the latest version of the Switch system software. Do that by going to System settings > System > System update

If you're unboxing a new Switch to transfer your data onto, you'll need to do the basic setup to get it on your Wi-Fi network first. We've got a full guide to setting up your new Switch that covers this initial setup. Account and data transfer is also covered there, along with other setup issues. But if you're just looking for the quickest way to transfer data, read on below. 

This is also easier if you subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, which allows for online play and also cloud backups. 

Log into your Nintendo account on the new Switch (instructions here, if needed).

Go to: Settings > Data Management > Save Data Cloud

How to redownload games on your new Switch.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

If you don't subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, it's a little more complex, but still easier than it used to be. Both consoles should be plugged in and on the same Wi-Fi network. My Switch wouldn't let me initiate the transfer unless the system was plugged in, even though its battery was at 95 percent. 

  • Go to System Settings > Users
  • Scroll down and select "Transfer Your User and Save Data." Important note: You don't select which user you're transferring yet. The Transfer button is below all the user account icons on this screen. 
  • Next select whether this is the Source or Target of your data transfer. In this case, it's the source. 
  • Then, at long last, you choose which account to transfer. 
  • On the target Switch, repeat the process, but choose Target instead of Source during the "Transfer Your User and Save Data" process.

The OTA (over-the-air) transfer between two consoles is actually pretty quick and painless. But there's a catch: If you're not a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber and make use of the cloud save feature, your saved-game data will be deleted from the original Switch. 

It's also worth noting that 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).