Nintendo Switch Bricking FAQ
Since the mid-March release of Nintendo Switch firmware 5.0.0 there has been a lot of questions and postings about Switch bricking. The issue has centered around third party dock causing issues after the update. There has also been bad information put out there.
This FAQ stems from media reports and posts by affected end users. Please note I have reference links throughout this post. This tells us what we actually know and helps us answer common questions with the best data possible.
- Found multiple, separate postings regarding FastSnail and Charjenpro docks also bricking Switches and adjusted FAQ to reflect reports
- Added Nyko’s and Nintendo’s response to Kotaku
- Added Nintendo of Japan/Hong Kong support information on using third party power banks
- Updated phone charger and power bank question given new Nintendo support info
- Added how to transfer user and save data to another Switch
What is “bricking”?
The term means a device won’t function and isn’t recoverable. “It is as useful as a brick.”
For the Switch this often appears as stuck in the boot screen or not booting at all. You can’t access your Switch’s data if it won’t boot. As there is no external backup option this means game save data is often lost.
What is causing the current outbreak of bricking?
Third party docks. I have seen multiple, separate postings from users with the Nyko, FastSnail, and Charjenpro branded docks. It is not unreasonable to assume other third party docks may also experience the issue.
Update 5.0.0 may have exacerbated this issue, that is less clear.
Nyko is being responsive to reported issues. They also responded to an article on Kotaku:
Reached by e-mail, a Nyko representative told Kotaku that the company is “aware of the issue some Portable Docking Kit owners are facing after updating the firmware on their Nintendo Switch to version 5.0. Though further testing is still required to determine the exact root cause of the problem, we believe it is related to the way the Switch handles AV output for an external TV/monitor while the console is docked on the Portable Docking Kit.” Nyko says it is working on a solution and has policies on replacing malfunctioning products.
March 12, Nintendo released the 5.0.0 update.
- Nintendo’s Update Notes.
- 5.0.0 update did a lot of things on the backend security/anti-homebrewing related.
March 15, Spawn Wave (same guy who did 5.0.0 security video above) releases a YouTube video on the death of his Switch.
- He recently updated to 5.0.0, left his Switch on a Nyko dock using Nintendo’s AC adapter overnight, and it was dead the next day.
- Checked internals, no obvious sign of a problem. Used a new Switch to charge the old Switch’s battery. Old Switch is stuck in a boot loop. No way to access the saved game data.
- Nyko offered to replace Switch. Declined offer as Switch gets beat up on camera.
- His Takeaway 1: Don’t use any third party dock under 5.0.0. A replacement dock case (Nintendo’s electronics) is fine.
- His Takeaway 2: Lack of ability to backup saved data is a huge flaw on Nintendo’s part.
March 15-16, Nintendo blogs and news sites start reporting third party docks can brick your Switch.
- Nintendo Enthusiast, Nintendo Life, and others.
- Every blog/news post cites Spawn Wave’s YouTube video as their primary source. Nintendo Life also cites a direct email, which involved a Nyko dock.
Since March 12 there have been an increase in the number of bricked Switch reports involving Nyko docks.
There are also a few reports of FastSnail docks causing issues.
- Reddit (reference to FastSnail issues and working with their support in the comments)
- Nintendo Support forums
And reports on the Charjenpro dock.
Nintendo made a statement to Kotaku:
Nintendo has issued a statement to Kotaku recommending that Switch owners only buy officially licensed Switch products, adding: “Unlicensed products and accessories do not undergo Nintendo’s testing and evaluation process. They might not work at all with our game systems, and they could have compatibility problems with certain games, the Nintendo Switch system itself, and other licensed accessories and peripherals.”
Media reports are all based on community postings. So we can only rely on what the community is reporting.
User reports from various Nintendo Switch forums most often name the Nyko docks, but as more people join the conversation more brands are being named. The Insignia dock is mentioned in one news article. But Best Buy responded to end users they’ve had no reports of issues. I have not seen any users report an issue with that dock.
Is the Switch 5.0.0 update a factor?
Maybe. There is no denying an increase in the number of reports since the 5.0.0 update.
Did the update exacerbated an existing issue? Or did the increased visibility cause more users to report their issues?
Will any third party dock brick the Switch?
Possibly (upgraded after finding multiple, separate reports of issues with FastSnail and Charjenpro docks). The general advise of the community stands: don’t use third party docks. Stick with Nintendo’s dock and its included power adapter.
- Official Nintendo docks have been on sale for $69 the last couple of weeks (hmm, I wonder why). Check out /r/NintendoSwitchDeals to see when they’re on sale.
- If size is your issue you could look at getting a Nintendo dock replacement case. These are smaller plastic cases which you transfer the Nintendo electronics into. This presents its own set of risks, do your homework first.
- Any USB-C to HDMI adapter would qualify as a third party dock.
Are all third party accessories unsafe?
Third party accessories are not inherently unsafe. They are outside the warranty scope provided by a first party manufacturer. In this case, Nintendo. Damage caused by a third party accessory is not covered under the Switch’s warranty. Nor should you expect Nintendo to test against third party accessories.
Third party accessories are common across all electronics. Most of the time they enhance and fill niches users want. There is the occasional bad apple, as we’re seeing now.
If you want to stay 100% within the Switch’s warranty then only use Nintendo licensed accessories. This means their dock and AC adapter, no extra USB-C cables or power banks.
Nintendo of Japan and Nintendo of Hong Kong Switch support sites indicate USB-A power banks are fine, with the proper cable.
In both regions Nintendo answers the question about using a power bank (mobile battery/charger) the same way:
- Update the Switch to the latest system version.
- Use a power bank with a USB-A port.
- Use the USB-C to USB-A cable included with the Pro Controller or Joy-Con Charging Grip.
- If using a third party USB-C to USB-A cable make sure it has “56k resistance.”
- Failure to use the proper cable may “not be able to receive sufficient power” or “cause damage.”
- No guarantee that, even with the proper cable, the power bank “will operate properly as a charging application for the main unit.”
It isn’t unreasonable to extend this to USB-A wall chargers as they behave in a similar manner. The warranty statements remain the same; they do not test or cover third party devices. Nintendo of America’s Switch support site states to only use the official Nintendo Switch AC adapter.
The 56k Ohm resistor protects from a USB-C device pulling too much current (amps) from a USB-A power source.
USB-C to USB-C connections can handle 3A. But legacy USB-A connections cannot. USB-A chargers don’t often go past 2.4A, and many output 1A or less. A USB-C to USB-A cable could “lie” to the USB-C device that it is connected to a 3A power source. In that event the device would attempt to draw 3A from a USB-A power source that can’t handle it. This can damage the USB-A device. There is also a chance of damaging the USB-C device’s port or the cable.
This is where the 56k Ohm resistor built into the cable comes in. It prevents the USB-C device from drawing more current than the USB-A power source can handle.
USB-IF certified USB-C to USB-A cables include this resistor. Cables without certification may also have the resistor, check their specifications. USB-C to USB-C cables do not have the same issue. All the USB-C to USB-A cables I list have the resistor.
When looking at USB-A chargers and power banks you want those with 5V/2.4A power output. They rate as Good Enough on my Switch charger rating scale. The Switch will draw 5V/1.5A (7.5W) from those. That is not always enough to power the Switch. Depending on the game and settings it can use up to 8.75W in handheld mode. If the Switch is using less than 7.5W, then a small charge will go to its battery. If the Switch is using more than 7.5W, then the battery will provide the missing power, draining. Lowering screen brightness and turning off Wi-Fi are easy ways to reduce the power usage. While idle/asleep most of the charge will go to the battery. Under this condition the Switch will charge from 0% to 100% in ~3.5 hours.
A docked Switch requires much more power. Continue to use the official AC adapter with the official dock.
Will my phone charger brick the Switch?
There is no evidence of that now.
- Use USB-IF certified cables to protect from the Switch over drawing current from your weaker charger.
Will a third party USB-C charger brick the Switch?
There is no evidence of that now. That said I would only use them in handheld mode. Use the official AC adapter with the official dock.
- Do your homework before choosing a USB-C charger. You want one capable of outputting 5V/3A (USB-C) or 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A, 15V/1.2A (USB-C PD). For USB-C PD the amps can be more on the charger, but one of those volts must match.
- Use USB-IF certified cables.
- Consider getting a charger with USB-IF certification if safety is your top priority.
Will a power bank brick the Switch?
There is no evidence of that now.
There was the one report on Reddit recently, but the mods deleted it. They were using an Anker PowerCore Speed 20000 PD power bank for 20 minutes when their Switch died. Nintendo’s phone support told them it was the power bank.
- Tech savvy people will tell you a first party vendor has no problem blaming a third party accessory as it clears them of fault. And remember this was an over the phone diagnosis.
- Anker had bad USB-C cables which got recalled last year (their current cables are all USB-IF certified). If OP had a bad cable and went from laptop to Switch that could of caused the issue.
- There is not a second, separate report of issues with any power bank.
Weigh that how you will.
If you want a new power bank for your Switch follow the same steps you should always follow:
- Consider getting a USB-A power bank, as Nintendo of Japan/Hong Kong suggests above. It will provide less current to the Switch (rates as Good Enough on my rating scale).
- Do your homework before choosing a USB-C power bank. You want one capable of outputting 5V/3A (USB-C) or 9V/2A, 12V/1.5A, 15V/1.2A (USB-C PD). For USB-C PD the amps can be more on the charger, but one of those volts have to match.
- Use USB-IF certified cables.
- There are no USB-IF certified power banks. In short the market prefers device flexibility over official certifications.
How can I backup my gave save data?
You can’t back it up. You can transfer it to another Switch, but both devices need to be in working order.
The Nintendo Switch online service launching in September might include cloud sync. Reach out to Nintendo and ask them to make external game save data backups a top priority.
What should I do if my Nyko dock bricked my Switch?
Nyko has been offering to repair/replace affected consoles and attempt to save data. You should contact them via email@example.com. Don’t hold your breath on getting your saved game data back.
You can also contact Nintendo. Reports are mixed regarding free warranty repair or paid (~$115).
Why is the dock so complicated?
- The Switch outputs video as DisplayPort, as it has a workflow over USB-C that HDMI does not. But most TVs use HDMI, so video conversion is necessary.
- USB-C devices negotiate power regulation with their charger. The dock has its own negotiating chip and third party vendors do not use the same chip Nintendo does.
- The Switch does not follow USB-C standards. It uses non-standard power profiles while docked. It also has USB-C protocol errors and flaws. These are hardware level issues.