How to hack your Nintendo Switch, 2023 Edition: Picofly, HWFLY, RCM, OLED, unpatched vs patched… trying to clear it up for you

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It’s time to update our now traditional “how to hack your Nintendo Switch” article, with the latest data available as of 2023. Not much has changed since last year in “how” it’s done, however the release of the picofly, a cheaper hardware mod, means modchip prices have gone down significantly since last year. One fact remains though: original, unpatched V1 models remain the easiest Switch consoles to hack.

More and more people are buying a Nintendo Switch only to realize they cannot easily hack it in 2023. 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 you’re trying to hack a “recently” purchased Switch (probably any model bought after 2018, really), the easiest way might be to resell it and buy an unpatched V1 Switch instead. Prices of modchips have gone down though, so if you’re good with a solder iron (or now someone who can do it for you), modchips are now a legit option on any Nintendo Switch.

Table of contents:

5 Categories of Nintendo Switch

You can currently categorize the Nintendo Switch into 5 categories: Original V1 models (a.k.a. Unpatched Erista), Patched V1 (a.k.a. iPatched Erista, or Patched Erista), V2 (a.k.a. Mariko), Switch Lite, and OLED (a.k.a. Aula).

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. 2021 Saw the release of the OLED model, which is of course also patched against the 2018 hack.

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 quite cheaper) than the other models.

To rephrase: the only Switch consoles you can easily hack in 2023 are the unpatched V1 models. Everything else is doable through modchips but  requires good soldering skills 

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), an OLED model (slightly bigger, better screen), 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 big one with the nice screen: You have the OLED Switch.
  • My console is the small version that doesn’t plug to a TV: you have a Switch Lite
  • My console is the “regular size” 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).

If you don’t have a Switch Lite or OLED, 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).

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, OLED)

Long story short, if you don’t have an “unpatched V1” console, hacking your Switch in 2023 is not for the faint of heart, and will require good soldering skills (or someone to do it for you). Prices of the modchips are however reasonable compared to what they’ve been in the past.

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 in 2020, (with one of their members, Gary “GaryOPA” Bowser, recently getting a 4.5 year jail sentence as well as millions to repay to Nintendo. He got out of jail in 2023). Since then the production of these chips has stopped, making these original chips really hard to find, and really expensive.

In 2022, some clones of these modchips have surfaced on specialized websites, in particular some Chinese electronics retailers (including AliExpress). These go under the names “HWFLY”, “SX Clone”, or, more recently, “INSTINCT-NX”.

In early 2023, a much cheaper modchip, the picofly, was released as an “open source” alternative to the HWFly. Because the microcontroller it uses (the Raspberry RP 2040) is cheaper, and because the Switch hacking scene jumped onto it as a “community based” alternative, the picofly is cheaper than the HWFly. This new kid on the block also brought healthy competition and  contributed to making HWFly and its clones cheaper in 2023.

I’ve seen Nintendo Switch modchips as cheap as $35 on Aliexpress, at the time of writing this article. These modchips used to cost close to $150 in 2021/2022! They are now, price wise, a very valid option.

The issues with the many variations of HWFLY modchip clones

Because there are lots of clones of these modchips, and some have had compatibility issues in the past, you might want to tread a bit carefully. Specifically, check with the vendor that you buy a chip that works with your specific model. In case of doubt, head over to GBATemp for help.

So, how do I hack my Switch Lite, Switch OLED, Patched V1 Switch, or V2 “Mariko” Switch in 2023?

Let me go straight to the point: if you want to hack your Switch in 2023, the easiest way remains 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. But if you’re willing to investigate more “manual” options for your device:

If you have a Switch Lite, Switch OLED, Mariko Switch (V2) or Patched V1 Switch: Buy a HWFLY/INSTINCT-NX or a Picofly, and install it yourself (details below).

Picofly or HWFly? Which one to choose?

Picofly is historically a bit more “manual” and harder to install than HWFly, but it’s also slightly cheaper. HWFly (and what appears to be a clone, INSTINCT-NX) are a bit more established, and slightly easier to install, but also have a lot of variations, which can feel confusing. The choice is yours and both options, Picofly or HWFly, should have reasonable support from the community in 2023.

Buy and Install Picofly/HWFly

Finding modchips is somewhat difficult due to the legality concerns of these devices, but GBATemp and the appropriate Switch subreddit might have your covered if you want to explore these options. In any case, Aliexpress is probably where you’ll find those.

Conclusion

Hacking a Nintendo Switch in 2023 is much cheaper in 2023 than it was in 2022/2021. I remain convinced that buying an older, unpatched model, is the easiest way to hack the Nintendo Switch, but if you have the right soldering skills, installing a modchip is now an affordable option.

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