The Quickest Way to Transfer Your Nintendo Switch Data and Account
If you're adding a new Switch or replacing your previous one, finding your data, games and saves is easier than it used to be.
Dan AckermanEditorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications.
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ExpertiseI've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever.Credentials
Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
If you're upgrading to a new Nintendo Switch, you'll want to transfer all your old data to that new console. Even though the basic hardware platform has remained unchanged since 2017, there are now several versions of this hybrid handheld. You may have upgraded from a standard Switch to the more recent OLED version -- or maybe you moved to the more portable Switch Lite.
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 with tweaks to the processor for better battery life.
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.
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 easier if you subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, which allows for online play and cloud backups.
If you don't subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, it's a little more complex. 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%.
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 user account icons on this screen.
Select whether this is the Source or Target of your data transfer. In this case, it's the source.
Then choose which account to transfer.
On the Target Switch, repeat the process, but choose Target instead of Source.
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).