Since the mid-March 2018 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 certain third party docks.
This FAQ contains what we know from media reports and posts by affected end users. This tells us what we know to be true and helps answer common questions with the best data possible.
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.
Does bricking affect my saved game data?
Yes. Most people affected during the high of the issue lost all of their game data.
You can’t access or transfer your Switch’s data if it won’t boot.
Repairs involve replacing the motherboard, or replacing the entire unit. The Switch’s storage chip is keyed to its own motherboard. Nintendo seems unwilling or unable to transfer data when changing hardware.
How can I backup my gave save data?
You can subscribe to the Nintendo Switch Online program ($20/year). That includes cloud saves for most games. Some games, most notable Splatoon 2 and Pokémon: Let’s Go, will not backup to the cloud.
You can transfer it to another Switch, but both devices need to be in working order.
What is causing the bricking?
Third party docks. Specifically there are numerous, 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.
As to the technical reason, no one of authority has made any conclusive finding. The issue appears to deal with power transfer within the third party dock, and not the external charger. Some third party docks have been found to not following USB-C PD protocols, which could be a factor.
Is the 5.0.0 firmware 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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).
Will any third party dock brick the Switch?
Possibly. The general advise of the community is don’t use any third party dock. Stick with Nintendo’s dock and its included power adapter.
We know Nyko, FastSnail, and Charjenpro should be avoided.
Insignia is a popular brand with no reports that I’ve seen. Their customer service also claims to have received no reports from users.
There is a Kickstarter running for the Jumpgate Dock. They have tried to address the third party dock concerns and show their product is safe. They put out a video testing various third party docks. But their testing method wasn’t complete (didn’t show PD protocol communications).
Will my third party charger or power bank brick the Switch?
There are no confirmed reports of third party chargers causing a problem with the Switch.
Third party accessories are not inherently unsafe. 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.
See my Safely Charging the Switch page for more details.
Why is the dock so complicated?
Increased Power Requirement
- The dock requires 39W (specifically 15V/2.6A) in order to output video.
- Some of that goes to the USB ports and video conversion, but most of it is wasted. The Switch console itself receives no additional power.
- See How Switch Charging Works for a break down.
Product Verification During Video Output
- The Switch outputs video as DisplayPort over USB-C. The dock transcodes that into HDMI, as most TVs have HDMI and not DisplayPost. This process isn’t proprietary.
- Nintendo added a product verification step to the DP to HDMI process. This prevents any third party USB-C to HDMI adapter from working with the Switch.
- The product verification process was later cracked. Third party docks marketed for the Switch use this crack.
USB-C Power Delivery Protocol Issues
- USB-C devices negotiate power regulation with their charger. The dock handles negotiations with the charger, then passed on to the Switch console.
- The dock uses a specific negotiating chip. Third party dock producers use a variety of negotiating chips.
- Some third party docks appear to not follow proper USB-C PD protocol.
- The Switch does not follow strict 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.
Bricking/5.0.0 Update Timeline
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.
After March 12 there was an increase in the number of bricked Switch reports involving Nyko docks.
There were 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 of the Charjenpro dock.
March 27, Nyko 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.
Later that same day, Nintendo made a statement to Kotaku:
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.
April 26, Insignia (in house brand for Best Buy) representative claimed they had no customer reports of issues after the 5.0.0 update.
All media reports were based on community postings or company statements.