Home Guides Quick Start FAQ: Nintendo Switch

Quick Start FAQ: Nintendo Switch

by Dominik
Nintendo Switch Owner's Guide

This guide aims to compile absolutely everything there is to know about owning a Nintendo Switch. It should hence be equally valuable to both new buyers and anyone currently researching this unique handheld.

Not to mention that even day-one Switch owners could always use a reference guide, especially one packed to the brim with troubleshooting advice. So, let’s get to it:

How to turn on Nintendo Switch

Take a closer look at the top-left edge of the console close to where the L Button would be. Immediately to its right is a power button, sitting next to a pair of volume keys. Hold it down for about three seconds and watch the console boot up. You’ll know exactly when to let go as the Switch will signal the start of its booting sequence with a discreet rumble, smartphone-style.

Following that introductory sequence, you’ll be able to power on the console remotely, using either the Joy-Cons or one of many supported gamepads, including Nintendo’s own Switch Pro controller. But that first setup requires using the Switch in handheld mode.

How to turn off Nintendo Switch

To perform a typical shutdown on the Switch in the same way you’d turn off a PC, go back to that very same power button in the upper-left corner of the screen, and press down on it until you see a system prompt. The second option from the bottom is called “Turn Off” as that’s exactly what it will do.

If the console was docked beforehand, you might still hear its tiny fan spinning for a couple of minutes following the shutdown. That’s perfectly normal behavior.

How to restart Nintendo switch

Now, the aforementioned steps will produce exactly the same results – turn off the Switch – regardless of whether the console is in its television dock or at the end of a handheld session. An utterly mundane thing to point out – were it not for the fact you can’t shut it down any other way. Actually shut it down by cutting off its power source at a motherboard level, that is.

So, the only way to reboot a Switch is to long-press its power button, then select the restart command from that next window in all its extensively referenced glory. In any more general branch of IT, this maneuver would usually be called a soft(ware) reset, but Nintendo hasn’t used that terminology since the 3DS days.

Why Nintendo Switch sleep mode isn’t a power-off state

In short: because the console gets tired of sleeping and eventually passes out. Since it was hardly sleeping in the first place, but merely taking a break from rendering. That break might have lasted five minutes or five days, the only certainty is that the Switch did nothing beyond planning how its return to rendering will play out in the meantime.

To elaborate, the Switch is technically a tablet running a Linux distro. This makes it remarkably stable kernel-wise, and Nintendo obviously designed it with an expectation it will remain booted for days or even weeks between patches. But even the world’s largest server farms regularly run maintenance on their Linux machines. The Switch at the very least deserves some minimal downtime, as well.

Whenever you anticipate the console won’t see much use in the days ahead, try to remember to shut it down. Its ability to suspend and near-instantly resume games is magical, but that still doesn’t make sleep mode comparable to an off state. Rely on it for too long and you might find yourself losing game instances or even save files.

Ensuring it gets a break every now and then will lower the chances of headache-inducing memory leaks creeping in and might even result in a performance boost, depending on how long its RAM garbage collectors have been running with no chance to start with a clean slate. So, remember: a restart a day keeps tech support at bay, it always has. At least until applicable warranty periods go away.

How to activate Nintendo Switch sleep mode remotely

With the above out of the way, the sleep function tends to be pretty convenient during a typical day. It can actually even be activated remotely, both while the Switch is docked and undocked. Simply press and hold the Home button on your Pro Controller, right Joy-Con, or a third-party alternative to either.

Give it a few seconds and you’ll see a quick settings menu pop up from the right. The very first option that it offers is to put your Nintendo Switch to sleep; and that’s it, nighty-night!

How to hard-reset and unfreeze a Nintendo Switch

If your console becomes unresponsive in the middle of a session, the safest way to start troubleshooting it is to look up any errors it might Be throwing. Nintendo Switch error codes aren’t all equally informative, but disregarding some bizarre buffer overflow scenarios, you always want to have all of the information at your disposal before you start poking at stuff. So that you can at least be reasonably sure you aren’t about to make things worse while proceeding with a hard(ware) reset.

With that out of the way, forcing the Switch to reboot only requires you to remove it from the dock. Assuming it was sitting in one, to begin with, then pressing and holding its power button like you were trying to call the power menu. It won’t show up if the console’s genuinely frozen, of course, but that’s alright because you’ll keep pressing until you put a stop to this zombie act at a binary level.

Ten seconds is usually all it takes for this step to succeed, but you might need to wait a bit longer if the console’s fan is still running after the shutdown. As already mentioned, this is normal behavior, and especially likely in whatever demanding scenario causes the Switch to freeze. After verifying no component is drawing any more power from the battery, wait another moment, then, power on the Switch as usual. You should feel a familiar haptic feedback response notifying you that the device is trying to boot into its OS. And that’s all there is to hard-resetting a Switch.

Is Nintendo Switch pre-charged out of the box?

Every brand-new unit should have enough battery charge out of the box to last through an initial setup. Things like Nintendo account creation, controller calibration, and all that other stuff covered to the tiniest of details below. Just don’t plan a four-hour handheld gaming session immediately after walking out of the store, bring a portable battery, or do the optimally responsible thing by ordering the Switch online.

That isn’t to say your Switch won’t be delivered with a decent amount of juice in the tank, just that everyone’s mileage will vary.

How to charge Nintendo Switch controllers

If the promotional materials haven’t made that clear, Nintendo’s Joy-Cons will start charging as soon as they’re connected to the Switch. Looking at the stock-colored model, the blue Joy-Con goes to the left side of its tablet-like body and the red one will fit on the other end. If you’ve heard that satisfying “click” and assuming your console isn’t giving out low-battery warnings already, your Joy-Con(s) should be drawing power by the time your gaze returns to the screen.

But how do you charge Nintendo Joy Cons without the Switch, itself? A number of charging docks and holsters, all sold separately, allow owners to delegate this function to a less critical system. Doing so results in both direct and indirect net gains on the battery life front. While that’s primarily on account of energy efficiency, the Joy-Cons weren’t too power-hungry, in the first place. Note that the original Joy-Con Grip bundled with the Switch does not have a port that would allow for a wired connection of any sort.

As for how to charge the Nintendo Pro Controller, it comes with perhaps the best USB Type A to C cable we’ve seen to date. Unless you’re on the lookout for something more portable, there’s no need to spend extra on an alternative or, dare I say, backup. Four years in, my original cable is showing signs of neither wear nor tear. Check out our Nintendo Pro Controller Guide for a more in-depth look at its charging alternatives.

How to tell if Nintendo Switch is charging?

If you can’t tell whether an undocked Switch is charging, chances are that it isn’t. Because its display should have lit up the moment you plugged it in. Even if the console wasn’t actually turned on beforehand. For docked cases, go against your first instinct and disregard the bright green LED on the dock itself. That’s just an indication that the accessory connection is working and the Switch is outputting an HDMI signal to your television or monitor of choice.

As for whether the Switch is charging properly, the most elegant way to find that out if the console’s docked is to wake it up remotely and have good-enough vision to identify recognize its charging indicator in the corner. Otherwise, it might just be easier to approach the console.

Doing so might not be a particularly convenient solution but keep in mind that you don’t actually have to unseat the Switch in order to confirm it’s charging inside its dock. Not at close range, at least, as this perspective reveals the Switch isn’t actually completely seated inside its dock but protrudes just enough to offer at-glance information.

Finally, anyone dealing with a Switch that’s been left with a dead battery for a prolonged period shouldn’t give up immediately after the console refuses to boot. Which it almost certainly will, and yet that isn’t the sure-fire sign of impending doom that it once was. Batteries have gotten a lot more resilient over the years, and those powering the Switch have so far proven to be among the console’s most reliable tech.

Consequently, try leaving such a seemingly dead device to charge overnight and you might be surprised come morning. The Switch is one tough unit in this regard, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to mistreat it.

Should I turn off Nintendo Switch while it’s charging?

In a scenario mandating for the console to be topped up ASAP because millions of lives are at stake? Absolutely, Mr. President. Otherwise, the Switch will operate just fine while it’s charging. As evidenced by how well it performs every time it’s placed into its TV dock. Nintendo’s base charges it at a significantly higher voltage, while also being more demanding on its NVIDIA chipset (1080p HDMI output is a much more strenuous activity vs powering a 720p handheld display).

It goes without saying that the console will charge slower if you’re actively using it. But there’s no meaningful difference between the charging speeds of an idling and sleeping unit, so powering off the Switch every time you plug it in to recharge simply isn’t worth the hassle.

How many controllers connect to a Nintendo Switch

The hard cap is at eight controllers per console, but the real one is at four. Since the Switch only supports local multiplayer experiences for up to four players. And it counts the Joy-Cons as separate gamepads, even if they’re used in unity as a “proper” controller.

But the specification doesn’t account for the possibility of an extra wired controller communicating with the console via USB-C. Nintendo itself confirmed this use case, so USB hubs might be a way around the octa-input limit. Not that anyone’s ever likely to need it. And speaking of redundant connectivity options, the Switch Lite is identical to its costlier sibling in terms of a maximum number of controller connections it allows, according to Nintendo’s technical documentation.

Player count limitations in local multiplayer experiences on the Switch will always vary on a case-by-case basis quite substantially. But that is to be expected from such a diverse ecosystem; some developers will care about Bluetooth interoperability more than most, while others might be carefree but still more successful at actually implementing such technical limits.

Either way, do check our our picks for the best Nintendo Switch controllers to make sure your next purchase doesn’t result in any unpleasant surprises, no matter how many tribes have you been tasked with equipping.

How to sync Nintendo switch controller

First-time syncing any controller or pair thereof with the Switch is the easiest. Just turn them on while you’re in the Controllers section of the Home menu, then follow the on-screen prompts, there’s usually a grand total of two to power through. Any subsequent resync will also include an extra step of unlinking a particular controller.

Both the Joy-Cons and the Pro Controller also ship with tiny sync buttons, but you’ll only need them in case you own multiple controllers which all see frequent, interchangeable use . Namely, the miniature keys are only used for determining the order in which the controllers will pair with the Switch. They can also be used for forcefully killing a connection between the console and the controllers. Long-pressing them will do that – here and in many other life situations.

How to connect Nintendo Switch to a TV

Everything anyone needs to hook up Nintendo Switch to TV apps, optical ins, and similar solutions  already comes bundled with the console. Apart from an HDMI A to Mini-HDMI, Nintendo’s dock will also need to plug into a power supply, but that’s it for the necessities.

The Switch slots onto an existing USB-C port found inside the TV dock and the Joy-Cons can charge by simply attaching to its hinges. So, unless you picked up some extra gear, two cables are all you need. The smaller of the two HDMI connectors goes into the dock, which has a straightforward, yet effective cable management solution in the form of tiny door hinge holding the lines in place.

Depending on the manufacturer of your TV, the Switch might surprise you by instantly self-configuring and being ready to get going. E.g., Samsung TVs tend to play nicely with Nintendo’s hardware and have been doing as much for years. But you should be good no matter what, which is the main silver lining to Nintendo’s underpowered hardware philosophy.

Ergo, gaming on an old 1080p TV wouldn’t necessarily be much worse of an experience than investing into something much more expensive, from a Switch owner’s perspective. It’s kind of complicated but if you’d like to learn how to make more informed purchase decisions, this take on what constitutes best TV for Nintendo Switch is a good place to start.

Which Nintendo Switch protective case to choose?

Nintendo’s first-party accessories are definitely more premium-feeling than most but not enough for any practical advantages to materialize. So, if money is so much as a consideration, do yourself a favor and get something to eat with that $20 difference between an official Nintendo Switch sleeve and a no-name one. Or mayhap buy a promising-looking indie game you’ve been eyeing for a while, because Nintendo’s Switch accessory prices just aren’t worth it, for the most part.

Keep in mind this is all coming from a grown man whose Amiibo collection has gotten so large that it’s one limited-edition Pikachu away from the state compelling it to declare a collective or an LLC. What’s not worth it to me shouldn’t even reach the general vicinity of your decision-making gray matter.

How to connect Nintendo switch to TV without dock

This isn’t the disclaimer you were looking for but this part needs to be prefaced by stating that third-party Switch docks have already caused plenty of pain and grief among Switch owners. Any active pursuit of such gadgets will feasibly end with your Switch doing a perfect impression of a brick. Forever.

With that said, there haven’t been any large-scale incidents with serial-bricking Switch accessories since the early days of the console. Though that’s more of a minor miracle than assurance, given how the Switch isn’t compliant with the USB-C standard. Partly because the specification was still being profiled back when the Switch first released. But that’s not to underplay the fact Nintendo’s idea of technology compliance is closer to the Turing Machine than bus connector specification.

All of that is to say: be careful if you’re serious about buying a third-party Switch dock. Especially if your console is still under warranty. And any gadget claiming it will unlock the TV-streaming potential of your Switch Lite is straight-up trying to scam you. TV output is in the Shadow Realm of bad Nintendo fanfiction land. The Switch Lite lacks the hardware to do it, so unless you have a soldering iron and a lot of trade secrets to share, there is no such devices will ever reach so much as a shred of legitimacy.

That Nintendo doesn’t license any third-party docks for the Switch while consistently cashing in on its other properties across the board is reason enough to be wary of such tech (granted, this might be a bit naïve of a view). Either way, the moral of the story is that if you need TV functionality to any degree, you’ll need to get a regular Switch. The Lite doesn’t do HDMI output, at all.

How to connect Nintendo Switch to a gaming monitor

But here’s some good news: PC monitors, including many gaming-oriented models, are officially supported by the Nintendo Switch. That’s all on HDMI standardization, of course, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. Explaining this turn of events was the easy part; the not-as-trivial task is somehow factoring the Switch into your monitor purchase decision, or vice versa. Either scenario can significantly shift your perception of what the best gaming monitors to buy at any given moment are. And that’s before you remember how much prices have been fluctuating lately, even once the stay-at-home-and-do-what mentality stopped fueling additional demand for consumer tech.

How to connect Nintendo switch to a laptop

You can’t use your laptop as a dumb screen for the Switch. This misconception is based solely on the fact that that outgoing and incoming HDMI ports look the same at a glance. Bizarre gadgets picked up from Craigslist garage sales aside, it’s safe to assume that whatever laptop you might have on hand isn’t equipped with an HDMI in port but an outgoing one. Since it’s meant to be used in conjunction with more screens, not become a screen itself.

Reminds you of certain something? You wouldn’t Google how to download a car and reconnect its dashboard to the Switch LCD in order to have the console display road condition warnings, would you? That’s some Harlan Ellison-level IT horror right there. Just buy an affordable portable monitor as an alternative; you know the idea is good when it sounds so catchy, and you know this list of the best portable monitors will be great when it comes from us.

Now, you could, in theory, pick up a beefy portable streaming rig. One with a dedicated graphics card and accompanying HDMI in port. But that wouldn’t constitute using the laptop as a primitive screen but a full-fledged digital broadcasting studio. If that’s the level of commitment you’re ready to take on, we already did a lot of the heavy-lifting while trying to find out what’s the best capture card for Nintendo Switch.

How much storage does the Nintendo Switch have

Only 32GB and there are no variants to choose from here like there would be with smartphones. Nintendo doesn’t own the factories churning out the majority of the Switch units that keep flying off the shelves. And it certainly doesn’t own foundries and other indirect cogs in its supply chain.

Since every product specification change costs money and takes time to implement, 32GB is all we get. “Us” being the Switch owners and the Switch operating system. Who usually leaves us with 25GB if, we’re lucky and depending on the exact patch, or time of the month. Naturally, the only way to work with this tiny memory limit is getting yourself a nice and reliable memory card or three.

Where is the SDXC Card located on a Nintendo Switch?

The MicroSD/SDXC card slot resides behind the Switch’s kickstand. And while that flimsy thing never did offer much support to the console, it does a reasonably good job of protecting its removable memory. Don’t panic if the kickstand pops out while you’re trying access the memory card port it’s so ferociously guarding. It’s made of silicon, so it will latch right back on to that tiny hinge on the back of the console.

In case you don’t have one, check out our pick of the Best SD Card for Nintendo Switch.

How to use the SDXC Card of your Nintendo Switch

Quick-format the card prior to inserting it into the Switch, using either a smartphone, tablet or some other sort of a computer. You want the FAT32 format, ideally, though exFAT will work, as well but might take longer to finish reassembling itself, so to speak. Shut down the Switch prior to inserting the memory card, then boot it back up and your portable storage should be ready for use.

After not doing that last bit by hastily inserting the card into a powered-on Switch, then being forced to shut it down anyway, return to this sentence while waiting for the console to restart and it will still be there for you, humoring you and making sure you’re not getting bored with not following instructions that you specifically Googled. Piece of cake!

How to use an external hard drive on Nintendo Switch

Take a brief but determined look at your Switch and, with the external hard drive in hand, turn around and start running. Don’t stop until you’re too exhausted to think up any more ideas about how to circumvent the console’s storage limitation without buying expandable storage. Just be happy Nintendo didn’t do a Sony by releasing the Switch with a proprietary memory card format like the one that effectively killed PlayStation Vita.

How to clean a Nintendo Switch

If you’re using the console (near-)exclusively docked, remember to still take it out from time to time because its vents haven’t been oriented with completely static placement in mind. Generally speaking, there aren’t any secret techniques to learn here. Just some common sense and experience stemming from the past however many years of owning a smartphone you might have under your belt.

How to watch YouTube on Nintendo Switch

There’s an app for that. You get it from the Switch eShop for free and can proceed to perusing and amusing yourself with YouTube just like you would on a smartphone or tablet. Since it’s essentially that very same app; remember that Nintendo opted for Nvidia’s Tegra chips, so the Switch runs on some sort of a Linux kernel which served as a basis for Nintendo’s own microkernel. In other words: porting the YouTube Android app was likely trivial for whomever at Google was tasked with that glorious assignment.

Plus, YouTube should actually run smoother than on many principally “better” Android devices because the Switch grants it access to one layer deeper graphics driver. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make a particularly significant difference when looking at more demanding applications like… anything that isn’t YouTube, starting with our next example.

How to get Netflix on Nintendo Switch?

Let’s face it: were either Nintendo or Netflix even remotely intrigued or at least not terrified by the idea of making Netflix available on the Switch, they would have already humored the countless requests by now. After all, that’s what happened with YouTube support on the handheld. But it’s been four years and counting. Maybe it’s time we stopped the count, eh?

At the end of the day, the Switch just isn’t that well-equipped for decoding high-resolution files on the fly. And its 720p screen is far from ideal for watching high-fidelity content that isn’t heavily stylized to account for those shortcomings.

Do I need a VPN for a Nintendo Switch?

The Switch currently has no known (i.e., easily exploitable) network vulnerabilities that would paint a giant target on your back. Or the back nodes of your local area network, for that matter. So while probably you don’t need a dedicated VPN to use it locally, host-related vulnerabilities aren’t the only reason why someone might be looking for Nintendo Switch VPN recommendations.

Just consider a scenario wherein you’re connecting to a public hotspot. Suddenly, having just one VPN on hand probably isn’t enough, less it’s a full-featured security framework.

What to play on a Nintendo Switch?

Anyone wondering this should consider themselves lucky if it means they’ll soon get to experience the amazing Switch library for their first time. From a standpoint of pure entertainment value, you will likely get the most bang for your buck out of first-party releases. But most will agree that any legitimate list of the best Nintendo Switch games out there is pretty diverse, for a Nintendo platform. Anything from obscure indies to third-party AAA blockbusters, middle-ground projects, and first-party classics is at your disposal. Just pick your favorite genre and dive in!