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How to factory reset your Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch actually offers more than one way to reset, or “initialize,” its firmware, potentially sparing your save data, if you choose. In fact, there are many options for deleting different types of data, depending on your needs. Here’s everything you need to know about deleting data from your Nintendo Switch, including how to do a factory reset.

Just make sure you backup your best Switch games before you do.




5 minutes

What You Need

  • Nintendo Switch console

How to factory reset your Nintendo Switch

The easiest but most permanent way to reset your Switch is from the main menu. A variety of options are available from this screen, including Initialize Console – which will wipe your system clean. Before diving into the steps required to factory reset your Switch, here's a quick look at what choices you'll have in the main menu.

Reset cache: Use this option if you want to wipe internet browser data from your Switch but keep everything else. This includes saved user IDs and passwords for various websites, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as your Switch browser history.

Reset keyboard: The Switch’s virtual keyboard pays attention to the things you type and saves data about words and phrases you use often. It uses that data to offer predictive type options of words you use often, so you don’t have to type down every word as you’re using the keyboard, speeding up the process. This option wipes that predictive text data.

Format microSD card: In order to use a microSD card as extra memory for the Switch, it has to be formatted. This option will delete any data on a microSD card you plug into the Switch, allowing it to be used in the console when you’re done. If you’re encountering errors using a microSD card on the Switch, this is the option you want.

Initialize console: This is the big one. This option returns your Switch to its out-of-the-box state, deleting all saved data, screenshots, videos, Switch user names, web browser data, game data, and system updates. It will also reset system settings like parental controls to their defaults. If you have a Nintendo user account linked to online services like the Nintendo eShop, the account will still exist online, but it will no longer be linked to the Switch. According to Nintendo, any data from the Switch you stored on a microSD card won’t be deleted. Aside from your screenshots and videos, though, the data on your microSD card will become unusable.

Only use this option as a last resort, either if you’re getting rid of the Switch altogether or you’re encountering errors that are so troublesome no other option will fix the console. Nintendo notes that you also need your console to be connected to the internet to reformat it.

With all that in mind, here's how to start the Switch reset process:

Step 1: On the Home screen, go to the System Settings menu located at the bottom of the screen – it's the icon that looks like a gear.

Step 2: Hit the A button to pull up a list of options on the left side of the screen.

Step 3: From the list of options, select System.

Step 4: The System menu options will appear on the right side of the screen. You need to scroll down again to the bottom option, Initialize. This will then pull up a new menu with all the aforementioned options for resetting your Switch.

How to complete a "soft reset" on Nintendo Switch

There is a second, less drastic way to “initialize” your Switch if you’re dealing with errors or other problems. Using the console’s “maintenance mode,” you can wipe most of the data from your Switch while leaving behind things like game saves, user info, and screenshots.

There are other maintenance mode options you might need as well if you’re dealing with errors, so try this mode before completely reinitializing your console. Maintenance mode lets you bypass the main Switch operating system, which can be helpful for getting around errors that are interrupting your ability to get to the System Settings menu.

Step 1: To access maintenance mode, turn your Switch off by holding down the Power button on top of the console, then choosing Power Options > Turn Off.

Step 2: Once the Switch is completely turned off, hold both the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons, as well as the Power button. Keep holding them down while you see the Nintendo and Switch logos appear on the screen until you see the Maintenance Mode menu appear.

Step 3: From there, you have a few options for how to fix up your Switch.

Update system: If you are encountering errors you think can be fixed by an update to the Switch’s system software, this is the option you want. This option uses your Wi-Fi connection to download the latest Switch software and update your system.

Initialize console without deleting save data: This is a “95% factory reset” option if you’ve identified an issue with your Switch’s firmware or a game. It “initializes” most of the console, deleting your games and software updates and restoring the console’s firmware to factory settings, but it keeps your game saves, screenshots, videos, and user data intact. If you’re having trouble with your Switch but don’t want to lose all of your data, use this option.

As with a full initialization of the console, this option will also render any data on a microSD card you’re using with the Switch unusable.

Initialize console: Like the option in the System Settings menu, this is the big one that will completely wipe all data saved to your Switch, restoring it to its out-of-the-box state.

how to factory reset a nintendo switch files

What to do when you've "Initialized" your Switch

It’s possible you will lose some of your data while restoring your Nintendo Switch to its factory settings. But not everything will be lost; you will be able to reinstall the games that you’ve previously purchased.

After a player has linked their Switch to their Nintendo account again, they’ll be able to download games or DLC from Nintendo’s eShop conveniently. No one has to spend any time worrying about the physical copies of their favorite games. Gamers will have the chance to reinstall them at a slightly later time.

What the player will need to do is insert their microSD card into the computer before trying to reformat anything. After sliding the card in, select the Album folder. From there, you could find and reload pre-saved images, screenshots, or additional files back onto the computer. Once finishing that, simply slide the SD card back out and insert it into the Switch console. At that point, the Switch device should revert to its default settings.

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Phil Hornshaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Phil Hornshaw is an author, freelance writer and journalist living in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of The Space Hero's…
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