Nintendo Switch Bricking FAQ

Nintendo Switch Bricking FAQ

This Nintendo Switch bricking FAQ is to help you separate facts from fears. When it comes to concerns with third party accessories damaging the Switch console.

Nintendo Switch Bricking FAQ

Why create this FAQ?

In the spring of 2018 a wave of user reports involving third party docks damaging the Nintendo Switch swept through the community. We only had end user reports to go on. The media only covered content from a single gaming influencer. And Nintendo was mostly quiet during the event. Add to this the Nintendo Switch was the first USB-C device for many. And USB-C is significantly more complicated than legacy USB. As it offers a lot more technology.

As a result a lot of fear monger also occurred. Some found technical information they didn’t quite understand. But latched onto a single sentence and stirred up the community more. To get a good idea of what was actually happening you had to piece it together from several sources. While one person posting “it’ll brick your Nintendo Switch” was far faster and affected many.

I created this FAQ to better share what we know from legitimate sources. To tell what we know to be true, what is theorized, and what is false. To answer your questions and concerns 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 Nintendo Switch this often appears as stuck in the boot screen or not booting at all.


What was the Nintendo Switch bricking scare event?

The bricking of Nintendo Switches by third party docks went back to October 2017. But the community wide event occurred in mid-March 2018. Shortly after Nintendo released firmware update 5.0.0 for the Switch. It went viral when YouTuber Spawn Wave released a video on the death of his Switch. He postulated it was an issue between his Nyko dock and the 5.0.0 update. And told his viewers to avoid third party docks under the new firmware.

From there other Switch owners started reporting their own Switches bricked. The general consensus was the 5.0.0 update did something that was bad with the Switch and third party docks. Over the next two months some new info came out. Though nothing official from Nintendo that was helpful. Since then there have been good theories put forward on the actual cause of the issues. But to date no definitive evidence has been presented.


Nintendo Switch Bricking Timeline

October 2017: Nyko releases a smaller Nintendo Switch dock.
Nyko Portable Docking Kit for Nintendo Switch

Nyko Portable Docking Kit for Nintendo Switch

March 12, 2018: Nintendo released the 5.0.0 update.
March 15, 2018: Spawn Wave (same guy who did 5.0.0 security video above) releases a YouTube video on the death of his Switch.
  • Original video.
  • He recently updated to 5.0.0 and left his Switch on a Nyko dock using Nintendo’s AC adapter overnight. 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, 2018: Nintendo blogs and news sites start reporting third party docks can brick your Nintendo 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.
From here there was an increase in the number of bricked Nintendo Switch reports involving Nyko docks.
There were also a few reports of FastSnail docks causing issues.
And reports of the Charjenpro dock.
March 27 2018:, 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.

Source

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.

Source

April 26, 2018: Insignia states they’ve had no customer reports of issues since the 5.0.0 update.
May 1, 2018: A class action lawsuit is filed against Nyko.

What do we think actually caused the brickings?

To date no one has presented hard evidence of the original cause of the issue. Or why certain third party docks caused damage. While others did not. But there are some good theories out there.

The leading theory is that some third party docks didn’t have proper Power Delivery protocol hardware. A PD protocol chip is used to negotiate power between two USB-C PD devices. In this case the dock acts as a charger for the Switch. Lack of proper negotiation could allow improver voltages into the Switch’s circuits.

Two separate reviews have found the Nyko docks did not use a PD protocol chip. Instead they emulated the function with other hardware.

It is likely FastSnail and other known bad brands did something similar.

This would also explain why other brands, most notable Insignia, have no reports of issues. If they used proper PD protocol chips the issue would never come up.


Was the 5.0.0 firmware update a factor?

Probably not. There is no denying an increase in the number of reports since the 5.0.0 update. But that was also after a video on the issue went viral. Remember Nyko docks were damaging Switch consoles 4-5 months before the firmware update.

That said the update made a lot of changes around accessing the Switch. All undocumented. And Nintendo continues to release updates with little to no documentation.


Do all third party docks brick the Nintendo Switch?

At this point the answer is no.

A lot of Switch owners will tell others to avoid all third party docks. But some have shown to be safe by lack of issues, such as Insignia. And newer docks have since been released with no known issues.

We know Nyko, FastSnail, and Charjenpro should be avoided.

If you want to play it safe but still want a smaller dock there is a DYI option. Buy a Switch dock replacement case. I use one from Basstop. It is only a plastic shell which can house the electronics inside the official Switch dock. Complete with tools and a how to video, you can use official Nintendo electronics in a much smaller setup.


Do third party chargers also cause bricking?

No. And anyone who tells you otherwise will not be able to provide any proof when asked. Try it.

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 we 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.

Most USB-C chargers and power banks are not created for the Switch only, like a dock. Anker has two Nintendo Switch Edition power banks. But both use technology common in their other USB-C PD power banks. And most are made by companies with years of experience. They understand PD protocols and have been enacting them for a while.

See my Safely Charging the Switch page for more details.


Does bricking affect my saved game data?

At the height of the issue people affected lost all their game data. It pre-dated Nintendo Switch Online and the cloud backup. You could transfer your profile from one Switch to another. But not when the original Switch wouldn’t boot.

Repairs from Nintendo involved 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.

Today it is better, but not worry free. Nintendo Switch Online is available with cloud backup. But that needs to be active before the damage occurs. It also doesn’t backup every game for anti-cheating reasons. Most notable Splatoon 2 and Pokémon: Let’s Go.

Some local repair shops can also swap out the affected components. Rather than change out half the system.


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 also transfer it to another Switch, but both devices need to be in working order. Note your profile is moved, not copied.


What should I do if my Nyko dock bricked my Nintendo Switch?

Nyko had been offering to repair/replace affected consoles and attempt to save data. You should contact them via customersupport@nyko.com. But don’t hold your breath on getting your saved game data back.

You can also contact Nintendo. Reports were mixed on free warranty repair or paid (~$115). Keep in mind your Switch’s warranty was only for 12 months. Except were local laws say otherwise.


Why is the dock so complicated?

In short, because it needs to be. When designing the Nintendo Switch they embraced new technology. Which allowed the Switch to be the Switch. The most notable being USB-C. They could run power, video, audio, and data all through a single port. But each of those still needed their own technologies behind the port.

Power
  • The dock requires 39W (specifically 15V/2.6A) to operate. But it doesn’t actual use that much power:
    • Up to 18W is passed through to the Switch
    • Up to 9.5W is used by the USB ports
    • Less than 0.5W is used for video conversion
  • It doesn’t draw the missing 11W. The need is Nintendo trying to assure a better user experience. By trying to make sure you are using their charger with their dock.
  • The dock negotiates for power with the connected wall charger. Requesting and only accepting 15V. The Switch console then negotiates for power with the dock. Again requesting and only accepting 15V. There is where a PD protocol chip on the dock is important.
  • See How Switch Charging Works for more details on how the Switch draws power.
Video/Audio
  • The dock supports HDMI output, which works with most TVs.
  • But the Switch console outputs video as MyDP (aka mobile DisplayPort). And carries it over USB-C. At the time there wasn’t a USB-C to HDMI workflow available.
  • As DisplayPort on TVs is much less common. So Nintendo opted for a workflow that involved outputting MyDP. And then converting it for HDMI. Which the dock handles.
  • Laptops also output DisplayPort video over USB-C. A dongle converts that to HDMI. But they use the normal DP standard. While the Switch uses the mobile standard. This makes most USB-C to HDMI adapters on the market useless for the Switch. The Switch’s hardware is more like a Samsung DEX dock than an Apple USB-C Digital AC Multiport Adapter.
Suspected Product Verification
  • MyDP to HDMI conversion is not proprietary. In theory any USB-C to HDMI adapter that supports MyDP should work with the Switch. But most don’t. Including Slimport adapters, which use the same MyDP hardware as the Switch.
  • It is believed Nintendo added a product verification step to the MyDP to HDMI process. Something like what Samsung uses with their DeX supporting devices.
  • This would prevent most third party USB-C to HDMI adapters with MyDP support from working with the Switch.
  • The product verification process was later cracked. Third party docks marketed for the Switch use this crack.
Data
  • USB 2.0/3.0 is used to carry data from accessories attached to the dock to the Switch console.
  • The two side ports accept USB 2.0. Which is more than enough for wired controllers.
  • The rear port is built for USB 3.0. Best used for high speed accessories, such as a USB to Ethernet adapter. But Nintendo has yet to enable USB 3.0 on the console’s end.