Nintendo Switch: Understanding Save Data Backups, Upgrading Memory Card

Here’s what you need to know about maximizing the Nintendo Switch’s measly 32 GB local memory and what to do to upgrade it.

Nintendo is back in the game. After the Wii U got dragged behind Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4, Nintendo hopes to put its name back on the race with the revolutionary Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console and portable gaming device that’s making a lot of people—hardcore gamers and casual enthusiasts both—gaga to get their hands on it.

If you’re one of the lucky people who got their hands on the Nintendo Switch as early as this week, then you’re probably already neck-deep in trying to understand your new device. Aside from the three exciting modes you can use your Nintendo Switch on, which are handheld mode, console mode, and tabletop mode, one of the most fundamental things you must need to understand about your Nintendo Switch device is not just how its storage works, but how to make the storage work for you.

The Nintendo Switch only ships with a 32 GB local system memory. [Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Understanding local memory

The Nintendo Switch ships with a measly 32 GB local memory and if you’re used to playing with the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4, your first reaction would be, “that’s too dagnabit small!”

First thing you need to understand about the Nintendo Switch’s local memory is that it works unlike the Xbox One or the PS4, which installs the game on the console even though you buy the physical copy. This means that if you buy physical game cartridges for your Nintendo Switch instead of downloading it via online sources, the only thing that will get written on the local memory is your save game file.

If you think, “hey, that’s not too bad after all! I’ll just go ahead and purchase game cartridges for my Nintendo Switch all the way!” Then you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. If you haven’t been living under a rock, then you’ll notice that no game nowadays ships in full. This means you should expect Day One patches, DLCs, and various bug fixes and updates throughout the course of your game’s life.

As of now, we only have a handful of games for the Nintendo Switch. But imagine when more AAA titles or Nintendo exclusives make their way to the Nintendo Switch, and how much memory will these take up in terms of save game data and patches. That 32 GB is likely to run out really fast.

Boost your Nintendo Switch’s memory with a Micro SD card. [Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Upgrading system storage

This is why if you’re looking long term for your Nintendo Switch (which we hope you are since that’s not a cheap gaming device!), the only way to boost the device’s storage system is by purchasing a Micro SD card.

The first question, off the bat, is how much can you expand your memory?

In a statement to Game Informer in January, a Nintendo representative clarified that the Nintendo Switch will be compatible with Micro SDXC cards of up to 2 TB of memory. Two TB sounds good since more and more players on the PS4 and Xbox One are opting for 1-2 TB consoles because of memory-hogging AAA titles. The problem is there are no commercial 2 TB Micro SD cards on the market just yet. This means that the Nintendo Switch is working on the assumption that a 2 TB Micro SD will be relatively accessible (we highly doubt it’s going to be affordable) to consumers in the near future, or it’s planning to manufacture its own.

Nintendo Life has listed some of the best Micro SD card choices that we have on the market at the moment, and you should definitely invest in one if you’re planning to maximize your Nintendo Switch experience.

We would recommend you invest time and effort into thinking about what Micro SD size will suit your Nintendo Switch gaming needs because as Polygon has brought to our attention, the Nintendo Switch won’t let you use your micro SD on another Nintendo Switch device, nor can you copy or transfer files on your Micro SD to another. If you wish to use your Micro SD on another Nintendo Switch, the device will prompt you to delete all Nintendo Switch files on that Micro SD first and reformat it to the new device.

The Verge has also reiterated that downloaded games are locked to one Switch at a time, the same way that Micro SD’s are formatted to one Nintendo Switch at a time. So even if you log in to another Nintendo Switch device, you can’t access your eShop-purchased game until you deregister the old Switch.

There is no way to back-up your save game data on the Nintendo Switch—for now. [Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Understanding save files

In gaming, it goes without saying that save files are the most sacred piece of data. If you’ve logged hundreds of hours into a single game, there’s nothing more painful than getting your save data corrupted or lost. This is why the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have evolved in a way that these consoles allow save game data to be saved on the cloud, so as to avoid these heartbreaks, in case of bug-related issues, natural accidents, or console thefts.

The Nintendo Switch’s way of handling save game data, however, is a little disquieting. All save game data on the Nintendo Switch are written on the local 32 GB memory system. And Kotaku has found out that there is no way to back-up, transfer, or copy your save game data into the Micro SD, the cloud, or any other device. This is unlike the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS, which both allowed users to transfer and backup save data, just in case some unforeseeable event transpires.

If you check the Nintendo Switch’s Data Management FAQ page, you’ll confirm for yourself that all save game data are stored on the console’s system memory. If you eat up the whole 32 GB, there is no other way to proceed other than deleting data stored on the system to make room for new ones.

This means that if you break your Nintendo Switch or it gets stolen, then say goodbye to your precious save game data, as well.

As Nintendo has confirmed to Kotaku in a statement,

“At this time, it is not possible to transfer save data from one Nintendo Switch system to another.”

We are hoping that by “At this time,” Nintendo means we could see a fix or an update that will allow users to backup data files in the near future.

The Nintendo Switch launched internationally last March 3, 2017, and a first-day patch, Forbes reports, was released to launch several online features for the Nintendo Switch, including the eShop and friend codes.

[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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