More and more people are buying a Nintendo Switch only to realize they cannot easily hack it in 2021. In the guide below I’m trying to clarify what’s doable and what’s not. I’ve tried to be as clear and accurate as possible, but as always feel free to let me know in the comments if anything’s inaccurate or simply wrong!
TL,DR: although it’s technically possible to hack all models of Nintendo Switch as of the time of this writing, if your goal is to hack your recently purchased Switch, your best bet is to resell it and buy an unpatched V1 Switch instead.
4 Categories of Nintendo Switch
You can currently categorize the Nintendo Switch into 4 categories: Original V1 models (a.k.a. Unpatched Erista), Patched V1 (a.k.a. iPatched Erista, or Patched Erista), V2 (a.k.a. Mariko), and Switch Lite. The upcoming Switch pro will add more into the mix, but for now your console falls into one of these 4 categories.
Whether you can hack your console (and how easily) depends on which model you have, and it’s not necessary easy to say at a first glance.
A short history of Nintendo Switch Hacks and Hardware Revisions
in 2018, a hardware hack for the Nintendo Switch was disclosed by hacker Kate Temkin. Because it was a hardware hack on the Console’s NVidia Tegra chip, It allowed to hack all Nintendo Switch consoles at the time, independently of their firmware revision. In response, Nintendo started manufacturing an updated hardware version which did not have the flaw, and that would later be nicknamed “patched V1”, per opposition to the original “unpatched” models. Those patched units started reaching customers’ hands around Summer of 2018. In Summer 2019, Nintendo also released a full fledged hardware revision of the console, which didn’t have the vulnerability either, codenamed Mariko (or V2). In 2019 they also released the Switch Lite, a different form factor of the console, with a patched (not vulnerable to the hack) chip.
Although it is technically possible to hack any Switch on the market currently, doing so on the original, unpatched V1 models is vastly easier and cheaper than the other models.
To rephrase: the only Switch consoles you can easily hack in 2021 are the unpatched V1 models. Everything else is doable but difficult/expensive
Mariko, Erista, Patched, Unpatched… How can I tell which Switch console I have
The only easy thing you can tell at a glance is whether you have a “regular size” switch (the one that can dock to your TV) or a Switch Lite (the portable only version). Once you’ve got that out of the way, if you have a regular-sized Switch, you’ll want to determine if it’s an unpatched V1 (the older models), a patched V1, or a V2.
- My console is the small version that doesn’t plug to a TV: you have a Switch Lite
- My console is the “regular” Switch
- Find the serial number of your console, and head over to https://ismyswitchpatched.com/ . That site will try to tell you if your console is one of the unpatched models. The result is “green” (in which case it’s an unpatched V1 – good), “Red” (it’s either a Patched V1, or a V2. Not good), or “Orange” (not sure which one of the three…not great, really).
Hacking an unpatched V1 Erista Switch
If you’ve got an unpatched V1 Switch, you’re in the easiest category for hacks by far, congratulations! All you’ll need is a tiny dongle which you can find on many retailers. Worst case scenario, a paper clip will do the trick (I’m not making this up). There are countless tutorials on how to hack your unpatched Switch, I find that this one is pretty comprehensive.
Hacking any other Switch model (Patched V1, Patched “Mariko” V2, Switch Lite)
So, long story short, if you don’t have an “unpatched V1” console, hacking your Switch in 2021 is borderline impossible.
Another hacking history: Nintendo Switch modchips
To give a more detailed story, it used to be possible to hack these devices with a modchip, known as “SX Core” and “SX Lite” for the regular and lite Nintendo Switch consoles respectively. But the group behind these modchips (Team Xecuter) have been arrested late last year. Since then the production of these chips has stopped, making them really hard to find, and really expensive.
Recently, some clones of these modchips have surfaced on specialized websites, in particular some Chinese electronics retailers. These go under the names “HWFLY” or “SX Clone”.
However their prices fluctuate between $150 and $200 at the time of this writing, and their compatibility seems to be limited: early reports from some buyers indicate that these modchips are only compatible with Regular sized “V2” models (so, no compatibility with Switch Lite, and no compatibility with Patched V1 models). Additional reports indicate that these chips might not be super reliable. Sthetix on Twitter indicates that up to 50% of these chips are simply broken out of the box, and that if anything bad happens to the chip, we can’t flash it with a new firmware at the moment. Difficult to justify a $200 purchase in such conditions.
(Video from Sthetix. Check out more of his findings on the SX Clones, on his twitter thread.)
So, how do I hack my Switch Lite, Patched V1 Switch, or V2 “Mariko” Switch in 2021?
Let me go straight to the point: if you want to hack one of these models in 2021, your best bet, and not even the most expensive one, is to buy an unpatched V1 model (e.g. on eBay) and hack it the easy way, as described above in this article. Or buy any other model with a modchip preinstalled (harder to find online, to be honest). Nonetheless, if you’re willing to investigate other options for your device:
Switch Lite: your only option is to buy an SX Lite modchip and install it yourself (those are practically impossible to find today)
If you don’t have a Switch Lite, there remains the question of whether you have a Patched V1 Switch, or a V2. Basically, you probably can’t tell for sure, but if you bought your Switch new on a popular retailer such as Amazon, in mid to late 2020, or after that, it’s very likely you have a Mariko Switch (V2).
Mariko Switch (V2): You can either find an SX Core modchip (practically impossible to find), or a HWFLY clone (semi difficult to find but this might change, also see the issues related to these chips in the section above)
Patched V1 Switch: your only option is to buy an SX Core modchip and install it yourself (those are practically impossible to find today)
Finding modchips has become difficult, but GBATemp and the appropriate Switch subreddit might have your covered if you want to explore these options.
Again, it is likely the landscape here will evolve in the months to come, as more people get their hands on the HWFLY SX clones, but for now, the statement we made that Nintendo stopped hacking in its tracks is still relevant months later. One can only hope that the clones will become easier to find, easier to mod, and cheaper.