How to upgrade your Nintendo Switch storage and migrate your games
The Nintendo Switch only comes with 32GB of internal storage, which is tiny if you plan on having more than a handful of downloaded games and apps on your portable console. The solution is to use a microSD card to expand the Switch’s storage. But what’s the easiest way to do it? And if you already have a microSD card and want to use a new one with more capacity, how do you migrate your files? Do not worry; we’ll walk you through it all.
Before you begin, it’s always a good idea to back up your games to a desktop computer using a microSD card. Of course, any title downloaded from the Nintendo eShop (they’re linked to your account) can be archived and re-downloaded directly, if needed. But downloading your entire library takes much longer; having a local copy will save you time.
Game saves (such as your series of Master’s tests in Breath of the Wild) are stored locally in the internal memory of the switch. As long as you archive and don’t delete game data on the Switch, you won’t lose your valuable saved data.
To get started, you’ll need: a computer (operating system doesn’t matter as long as you have storage space), a microSD card adapter (if your computer doesn’t have no microSD slot), and finally, a microSD card. Nintendo recommends using a single UHS-I (Ultra High Speed Phase I) compatible microSD card, with transfer speeds of 60–95 MB/s; the higher, the better. Do not use multiple microSD cards with different games on the same Switch as this may cause conflicts.
The setup process should be done in portable mode (i.e. not tethered) next to your computer, as you will need to access the storage location under the kickstand. This process is the same whether you do it with the original Nintendo Switch or the new OLED model. The more portable Switch Lite, unfortunately, doesn’t have a microSD card slot and is limited to its stock 32GB of memory.
Move your games from the Switch to a microSD card
If you don’t have a microSD card already installed and your Switch’s internal memory is full, here’s how you can migrate data to a microSD card. To test this, I moved Super Smash Bros Ultimate from local storage to a 128GB SanDisk microSDXC UHS-I microSD card for Nintendo Switch.
- Turn off your Switch by holding down the power button, scrolling to Power Options, and then selecting Power off.
- Flip the handheld over, then lift the kickstand next to the right Joy-Con controller. Under the plastic stand, you will find a microSD card slot.
- Insert your new microSD card into the slot. You should hear a slight click once it is firmly seated.
- Turn on your Nintendo Switch. Go to the system settings gear icon in the bottom right and tap the “A” button (or double-tap with your finger).
- Scroll down (using the touchscreen or Joy-Con controller) to select Data Management. Your cursor will jump to the storage management screen.
- Navigate to and select Manage Software, just below Quick Archive.
- From here you can browse the list and determine which games/apps are stored locally and which are stored on the microSD card. There’s no simple transfer tool between the Switch’s internal storage and the microSD card, so you need to archive your game(s) first – one game at a time.
- Once you have decided which game(s) you want to migrate, highlight and select the first one from the list.
- In the game data info screen, scroll down to Archive Software and select it. A confirmation pop-up should appear notifying you that game data will be archived; however, your saved data and game icon will remain on the Switch home screen. Confirm your selection by tapping Archive.
- There is an alternative method for archiving games: instead, highlight the game in question on your home screen, press the “+” button on the right Joy-Con, scroll down to Manage software, then select Archive Software. Finally, confirm your selection by tapping Archive in the pop-up window.
- In any case, now press the Home button on the right Joy-Con to access the home screen. From there, navigate to the icon for the game you just archived. Press the “A” button and a confirmation window will appear. Confirm it by tapping Download, then wait for the download to complete.
- Press the Home button again for the Home screen, then navigate to the System Settings page as you did earlier. Head to Data Management, then navigate to the game you just downloaded. You should see the amount of storage right next to the microSD card icon, just below the game/app title.
- Repeat as needed for each game you want to download directly to the microSD card. Future purchases and downloads will properly route to the microSD card instead of internal storage.
Move games from your existing microSD card to another
If you already have a microSD card installed and want to swap it out for, say, a faster or larger card, you’ll need a computer (with a microSD slot or adapter) to back up your files.
- Turn off your Nintendo Switch by holding down the power button, selecting Power Options, and then selecting Power Off. Eject your old microSD card (located under the kickstand on the right side) by gently pressing on it; it should come out easily.
- Insert the microSD card into the slot on your computer or into an adapter connected to your system. (If you don’t already have an adapter, you could try something like the SanDisk MobileMate USB 3.0 PC Card Reader as it doubles as an SD card adapter). Once the microSD card is recognized, go to File Explorer on Windows or Finder on a Mac. You should see the mounted USB device as a form of external storage (its name depends on your hardware). In the drive, there should be a folder named Nintendo. Your precious files are inside!
- Highlight the “Nintendo” folder, then drag and drop it to your desktop. Once it’s highlighted, you can also press Ctrl + C on Windows or cmd + C on a Mac to copy the folder. To paste it to your desktop, press Ctrl+V on Windows or cmd+V on a Mac. Wait for the folder to be transferred to your computer – since it contains several folders and files, its size usually exceeds a few gigabytes.
- Now that all of your game files are saved to your computer, you can remove the microSD card from the slot (or adapter).
- Replace your old microSD card with the new one, by inserting it into your computer’s slot or adapter. Head to your File Explorer or Finder and navigate to the mounted storage device. Since the new card is empty, you naturally won’t see any folders or files.
- Copy the “Nintendo” folder you saved to your desktop, transferring it as is to the new microSD card (don’t change any file names or folders). You can drag and drop or use the copy/paste function.
- Wait for the transfer to complete. Remove the adapter from your computer’s port or the microSD card from the slot.
- Insert your new microSD card into the card slot of the switched off Switch.
- Turn on your Switch. Go to System Settings > Data Management > Manage Software once more. Scroll down the list making sure your games have been migrated to the microSD card.
- You can also clearly tell that the files are on the card by looking at the free space indicator on the right side under system memory.
In the event that your files were not successfully transferred to the new microSD card or are not recognized by the Switch, you can always delete the transferred files from the card using your computer’s file manager. You will need to re-download games/apps from Nintendo eShop, using the Nintendo Account they are associated with. If they aren’t automatically saved to your microSD card, use the archive and download trick described earlier.
Here is! You have successfully migrated your Switch files from one microSD card to another and/or added a microSD to expand your game library.
March 4 update: This article was originally published on March 8, 2019 and has been updated to explain that the process is the same for Nintendo Switch OLED and Nintendo Switch Lite storage cannot be upgraded.