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The Ultimate Guide to Freeing up Space on the Nintendo Switch Without Deleting Games

Running out of storage when trying to download new games on your Nintendo Switch? I‘ve got your back. With the right storage management, you can save all your game progress without having to delete anything. This comprehensive 2300+ word guide will show you how.

Managing and Deleting Screenshots

Hey friend! Let‘s start with your album of Switch screenshots and gameplay videos. These can really eat up storage if you go screenshot crazy.

According to Nintendo, your Switch can hold up to 1000 screenshots and 500 videos. If you‘re a heavy screenshotter like me, you‘ll fill that up fast!

Comb through your album and delete any blurry, unfunny, or repeat shots you don‘t need. You can hold down the Y button while viewing an image to delete it quickly.

Or, plug your Switch into your computer and transfer the screenshots you want to save. I recommend creating a separate Nintendo Switch Screenshots folder so they‘re organized.

While individual screenshots are small (around 1MB each), keeping hundreds or thousands means GBs of lost storage!

Automatic Screenshot Transfer to microSD Card

Tired of manually managing screenshots? Using a microSD card lets you set automatic screenshot transfers.

Go to System Settings > Data Management > Manage Screenshots and Videos > Destination and select microSD Card. Now new screenshots immediately save to the card, not internal storage!

Of course, remember to buy a microSD card with ample room first. More on that later!

Archiving Software to Retain Save Data

Say you want to remove some games you aren‘t playing lately from your Switch‘s internal storage. You can archive them to free up that sweet, sweet space while keeping your save files!

To archive software:

  1. Go to System Settings > Data Management > Manage Software
  2. Select the game you wish to archive
  3. Choose "Archive"

This will remove the game data while retaining your save data. Archived games will no longer show on your home screen but are still tied to your account.

When you feel like playing again, you can easily redownload the archived game and continue from your save data which remained untouched. Much better than deleting and losing progress completely!

Archiving vs. Deleting – What‘s the Difference?

Deleting software completely removes the game and all associated save files from your system. Requiring you to start from scratch if you redownload later.

Meanwhile, archiving only removes the game data, not your precious save files. So archiving is usually the way to go for inactive games you want to keep accessible.

Here‘s a comparison table:

Action Removes Game Files Keeps Save Files
Archive Yes Yes
Delete Yes No

See the difference? Stick to archiving over deleting unless you‘re absolutely done with a game for good!

Using MicroSD Cards for Mass Storage

Now, let‘s talk about expanding your storage long-term with microSD cards. This is essential if you plan to build a big digital game library.

The Switch comes with only 32GB of internal storage – not nearly enough room for more than a couple of digital titles. Games range from a few GB to over 40GB for the really massive ones!

Luckily, the Switch supports microSD cards up to 2TB in capacity. Slide one into the slot beneath the kickstand and you have near unlimited storage potential.

But which size microSD card should you get? Here are my storage recommendations based on your needs:

Storage Size Good For
32GB 2-3 average sized digital games
64GB 5-10 average digital games
128GB 15-20 average digital games
256GB 30-40 average digital games
512GB 60+ average digital games
1TB 100+ average digital games

Cards 64GB and above are pretty reasonably priced these days. A 128GB one can be had for under $20! Grab one and you‘ll be prepared for building a big digital library.

Some micro tips:

  • Buy from reputable brands like Sandisk, Samsung, Kingston, etc. Avoid fishy no-name cards.
  • Go for A1 or A2 rated cards – they have faster write speeds for better game performance.
  • Set your Switch to automatically save screenshots/videos to the microSD card.

Transfer Saves to the Cloud, Keep Games Local

If you have a Nintendo Switch Online membership, here‘s a cool trick to maximize storage:

Enable cloud saving for your games, then delete them from your Switch while keeping the save data in the cloud. When you want to play again, redownload the games and your progress will sync from the cloud!

The key is cloud saving support. Check enabled games under System Settings > Data Management. Note that Splatoon 2, Pokémon Let‘s Go, and a few others don‘t support cloud saves.

This works best for big single player games you might not play for a while. Beat the game, upload the save file, then remove it until the next playthrough. Enjoy that reclaimed storage!

There are limits though – only about 2 GB of cloud storage per account. So rely on it for key saves, not your entire library.

Cleaning Your Cartridges

Believe it or not, cruddy dirty game cartridges can lead to read errors and force redownloads if the Switch can‘t recognize them!

After hours of playtime, cart contacts can build up grime that interrupts the connection to your console. But cleaning them is a cinch.

For a basic cleaning, take a microfiber cloth and rub the metal contacts in straight motions. Dampen the cloth slightly with water for extra cleaning power if needed.

For really dirty games, dip the cloth in a 50/50 mix of water and isopropyl alcohol. This dissolves oils and residue way better than water alone. Let the cartridge dry fully before popping it back in!

Watch Your Twist

When cleaning carts, never wipe in a circular swirling motion – this can leave micro-scratches.

Always go in straight lines along the direction of the contacts. No circles! This avoids damaging the sensitive electrical strips.

A clean cartridge connection means properly reading all that game data without issues. Taking time to clean extends the life of your carts!

Resetting Your Switch to Factory Settings

If you just really want to nuke everything and start fresh, initializing your Switch back to factory settings will clear all games and resets the OS.

But by picking the "Keep Save Data" option, your game progress will remain intact! You‘ll have to redownload any games of course, but saves are preserved.

Here‘s how to initialize and keep save data:

  1. Power off your Switch completely
  2. Press and hold Volume + and – buttons
  3. While holding Volume buttons, press Power to turn on
  4. Use volume buttons to pick "Initialize Console Without Deleting Save Data"

This will completely wipe your Switch, but keeps precious save files safe. Rejoice!

Soft Resets vs. Hard Resets – What‘s the Difference?

You may come across advice online about "resetting" your Switch to clear up storage issues. But resetting can mean different things, so it‘s important to understand which type is appropriate.

Here‘s a quick comparison:

Soft Reset – Hold power button for 10-15 seconds until power options appear. Clears some temporary memory, doesn‘t affect saves or games.

Hard Reset – Factory resetting the console. Erases everything including games and save data unless you pick the "Keep Saves" option.

Soft reset is mostly safe to try anytime. But avoid hard resets unless absolutely necessary – they are very disruptive to have to redownload everything!

Clearing System Cache and Temp Files

Over time, temporary system files and cached data can build up, leading to sluggish performance.

Luckily, the Switch lets you clear this data out easily:

  1. Go to System Settings
  2. Open System within the main settings menu
  3. Select "Clear Cache"

This will wipe temporary internet files, download cache, and other temporary operating system junk. Your games, saves, and screenshots will be completely unaffected!

Feel free to clear cache every few months for that fresh feeling. Just don‘t expect it to massively free up storage since temp files are small. But every little bit counts!

Some Final Storage Tips from a Fellow Gamer

Phew, we covered a ton of ground! Let‘s recap the key storage management tips:

  • Regularly transfer screenshots to your PC or microSD card
  • Archive older games you aren‘t playing currently
  • Grab the biggest microSD card that reasonably fits your budget
  • Enable cloud saves and delete local copies of beaten games
  • Keep those cartridges clean and running smooth! Dirty discs slow things down.
  • Factory reset only in an emergency, with the keep saves option
  • Soft reset for temporary issue clearing, avoid hard resets
  • Cache clearing is safe anytime for fresh system performance

Running out of space stinks, but it doesn‘t mean losing your progress or starting over! With some diligent storage management, you can maintain access to all your Switch games.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy gaming!

Your friend,
Steven