How long does a Nintendo Switch last before it breaks?

Take good care of your Switch and you should have no issues with it breaking unexpectedly quickly. 

How long do Nintendo Switches last?

A Nintendo Switch console will easily last at least five years before certain vulnerable parts wear down and require replacing. Screen burn-in poses little to no risk to any Switch model and there’s also no sign yet of any reduction in software support.

This article explores whether Switches break easily, how you can identify if your Switch might be broken, and some easy ways in which you can extend the lifespan of your Switch.

Do Nintendo Switches break easily?

The Nintendo Switch is a fairly durable piece of kit. 

It’s designed to be portable and therefore needs to be robust enough to be carried around regularly and used in different environments. Some of the early Switch concepts were not robust at all compared to the final product.

However, it is a complex device and any one component could break at some point. Some common vulnerabilities are explored below:

The Joy-Cons

The parts of the console that will break most easily are the parts that move: the Joy-Cons. 

Stick drift is a well-known issue (you can send drifting Joy-Cons to Nintendo to get them fixed for free) but they can also become sticky or unresponsive. Players have also reported unresponsive face buttons or faulty shoulder buttons.

Photo of my grey Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons on a white background

The rail on the side of the Joy-Cons which is used to attach them to the console can also pop out if you drop the Joy-Con, and you can also damage the rail locking mechanism if you insert your Joy-Con upside down or on the wrong side of the console.

Joy-Cons are expensive and the cheaper, third-party alternatives just don’t cut it so it’s worth looking after them! I’m going to sound like a nagging parent here but… just wear the strap. I do agree, though, that the next Nintendo console could do with some better-quality sticks.

The console

As with any electronic device, there are plenty of ways that you can damage your Switch console. 

Given that it is a portable device, the most common cause of damage to the Switch console is likely impact- or pressure-related. Sit down with your Switch in your pocket or chuck it in the bottom of your bag? That’ll bend the frame and probably damage the screen. 

Drop your console or throw it at the wall after you lose another match to your younger sibling on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and, again, you’ll likely do some damage to your Switch.

Screenshot of Super Smash Bros Ultimate single player gameplay on Nintendo Switch
Smash Bros. can be infuriating, but don’t let it reduce the lifespan of your Switch.

Another classic cause of damage to the Nintendo Switch is water damage. If you spill liquid onto your Switch, you may not notice any immediate effects, but internal components may corrode and this will significantly reduce the lifespan of your Switch.

Accidents do happen but lots of the causes of damage can be avoided through reasonably careful use (just, like, don’t throw your Switch around?). That said, one annoying fault that can happen even with more careful Switch handling is damage to the charging port. 

Slotting your console back on the dock without due care, or even using third-party charging cables and docks, can break or bend the pins on the charging port. Super annoying. 

How do you know if your Switch is damaged?

If we don’t include bricking your console by trying to exploit the software, then the two types of damage you can do to your Switch are external and internal. 

It doesn’t take a genius to work out if your Switch has external damage – just look at your console: Is the frame bent? Is there evidence of impacts on the screen or the bezels? Are the Joy-Cons working properly? Are the charging pins broken?

Internal damage may cause an orange or blue screen of death. Whether or not you get one of these, if something’s definitely not right then you’ll need to open up your console (or get someone else to do it). 

Some internal damage, like water damage, is very obvious. Other types of internal damage, like faulty chips and dead batteries, are not so obvious. 

The internal board of a Nintendo Switch showing clear signs of corrosion due to water damage

Internal damage from water or other liquid is very easy to spot – components will be clearly corroded like in the image above. 

For other internal problems like shorted capacitors and faulty chips, you’ll need some specialist equipment like a multimeter to check capacitor resistance.

Some commonly reported internal problems with the Switch include the fan becoming clogged with dust (causing overheating) and dried-out thermal paste which can lead to chips and other parts becoming unseated from the board.

One other major internal component that can cause issues in an aging Switch console is the lithium-ion battery. 

When plugged into a good charger, even a Switch with a completely dead battery will display a small charging icon in the top left of the screen. If you don’t see this icon, you’ve probably got a problem with your battery.

How long is the Switch battery lifespan?

The Nintendo Switch battery capacity will start to reduce after around 800 charge cycles. After this point, a full battery will last around 80% as long as a brand-new battery. 

This goes for the Switch console as well as the Switch Lite console. Joy-Cons and Pro Controller battery capacity will reduce to 80% and 70% respectively after 500 charge cycles.

All this is according to Nintendo’s official information which you can check for yourself here.

It’s a shame that they don’t provide any more specific detail about whether the battery degrades at a faster rate beyond this point but, in any case, 800 charge cycles should get you plenty of play time at 100% capacity. Let’s do the maths:

Nintendo says a full charge of the OG Switch (V2) or OLED battery will give you 4.5-9 hours of playtime.

Assuming we’re playing a power-intensive game and we only get 4.5 hours before the battery runs out, that’s still a minimum of 3600 hours of playtime before the battery capacity even begins to reduce (not counting any time you spend playing your Switch while the battery is charging).

In other words: You could play your Switch for 3 hours every day for more than three years before the battery capacity begins to reduce.

I’m a big soccer fan and, if I didn’t have a full-time job and other adult responsibilities, I could certainly spend more than 3 hours each day playing soccer games on Switch.

Does leaving your Switch on damage it?

Leaving your Switch in sleep mode while docked does not damage the device and does not degrade the battery. 

Leaving your Switch permanently on in gaming mode may cause some issues (for example overheating). However, the risk of damage from things like screen burn-in on the OLED Switch models is still low:

Nintendo Switch screen burn in

One subject that popped up after Nintendo announced the OLED Switch was screen burn-in. 

Some OLED screens are vulnerable to burn-in – where permanent discoloration is caused by static images or on-screen elements remaining on the screen for extended periods of time.

However, YouTuber @WulffDen put this to the test in the name of science and left an OLED Switch on for over a year displaying the same image on the screen. He reported minimal burn in:  

Those of you with an OG Switch or a Switch Lite do not need to worry as LCD screens are not susceptible to burn in in the same way as OLED screens.

Switch software

Most of us wondering how long the Switch will last before breaking are thinking about the hardware. However, it’s also worth thinking about how software updates (or lack of them) might affect the Switch’s lifespan.

Support and updates

The Nintendo Switch regularly rolls out software updates. They can be annoying if they pop up unexpectedly when you power on your console, ready for a big session, only to be forced to sit and wait while your Switch updates.

At some point, Nintendo will stop rolling out updates to the Nintendo Switch. It’s already discontinued support for some apps and services on the WiiU but it seems as though the Switch will likely have a longer life than its less successful predecessor.

In a 2021 interview with Nikkei Business, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa stated that the unique flexibility of the Switch as a hybrid home and portable console makes it possible to lengthen the console’s life cycle as the range of possible games is much broader than a traditional home console or handheld device.

Aside from the question of continued updates and support, there’s also no browser on Switch so there’s not much chance of you accidentally downloading something malicious that might cause your console to break. 

Switch eShop

Another potential software headache for Switch owners is the eventual closure of the Switch eShop for downloading digital copies of games. 

Custom image made from photo of my Nintendo Switch displaying the eShop with ProCasual gaming logo in top right corner
The Switch eShop will be open for many years to come.

While there is no real performance difference between digital and physical Switch games, many Switch owners simply prefer the convenience of not needing to drag game cards around or find somewhere to store the huge cases they come in.

In the interview mentioned above, Nintendo boss Furukawa highlighted the “exceedingly favorable” sales of the Switch and said that the Switch has “entered its middle phase”. 

That would suggest the eShop will receive full attention from Nintendo until at least 2025 and likely beyond.

No stress, then, if you want to archive or delete Switch games to clear some space for new ones – you’ll be able to redownload all of your eShop purchases for the foreseeable future. There are hundreds of great indie games for Switch on the eShop – I spend more time playing these games than the AAA releases.

All this will be good news to anyone impacted by the closure of the WiiU and 3DS eShops in March 2023 (especially given that you can’t officially play 3DS games on Switch).

How to increase your Switch’s lifespan

You can maximize the lifespan of your Nintendo Switch by using protection, cleaning it regularly, and managing the battery life. 

Use protection

It goes almost without saying that you should buy a sturdy protective case for your Switch. 

For everyday use and short journeys, I recommend the officially licensed Game Traveler case. It’s a low-profile yet sturdy case that fits snugly around all Switch models. There are also built-in molded slots for the bundled game cases for easy storage for up to 8 extra game cards.

Photo of my Nintendo Switch console in officially licensed Game Traveler case with two game card cases resting on the lid of the case

For longer journeys and for when you want to take the console and all your accessories with you, look no further than the iVoler hard shell messenger bag. It fits my:

  • Console with Joy-Cons attached
  • Joy-Con Charging grip with extra Joy-Cons attached
  • Joy-Con straps
  • Dock
  • AC adapter
  • Switch Pro Controller
  • Up to 18 extra game cards
  • Earbuds/other small accessories

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this case given the price it’s sold at. Absolutely fantastic value. 

Clean your Switch regularly

It’s boring, but it’s important to clean your Switch console regularly. Nintendo recommends using a soft clean, damp cloth to wipe your Switch clean, and to use disinfectant if necessary.

Q-tips are much more effective for cleaning your Switch’s ports and card slots compared to alternatives such as compressed air (which is made from chemicals). 

As we discussed above, you can also extend the lifespan of your Switch by cleaning accumulated dust from the fan. It’s a bit fiddly as you’ll need to open up the console, but probably worth every now and again.

Manage battery lifespan

A reduced battery capacity is a killer for a portable, handheld console, so it’s worth taking steps to ensure you follow best practices to keep your Switch running for as long as possible. 

The most important thing you can do to protect your Switch battery is to only use Nintendo-licensed AC adapters when you recharge the battery.

If you prefer to play small-size Switch games with less intense performance requirements then your battery life span will also likely be longer. There are plenty of great options on the eShop that don’t strain the Switch’s limited power.

Summary – How long does a Nintendo Switch last before it breaks?

Moving parts like Joy-Con buttons are vulnerable to damage but the Switch will last at least 5 years before any other physical parts start to degrade through normal use. 

You can also expect to play 3 hours per day for more than three years before the battery capacity even begins to reduce.

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