Nintendo Switch blue screen causes and fixes

It’s not the end of the world if your Switch displays the blue screen of death – some of the causes and fixes are pretty straightforward.

Nintendo Switch blue screen causes and fixes

The Nintendo Switch blue screen of death has various causes including software errors (relating to corrupted or unnecessary files) and impact or water damage to hardware. Depending on the cause, fixes can be as simple as restoring factory settings and as tricky as reballing the CPU.  

What causes the Nintendo Switch blue screen of death?

The most common causes of the Nintendo Switch blue screen of death are impact damage or a software error that is stopping the Switch from being able to boot. It’s not as common as Joy-Con drift (the subject of at least five lawsuits over the years).

Don’t worry, playing your Switch while charging it and other normal use activity is unlikely to cause a blue screen of death.

Impact damage

The blue screen of death can be caused by damage to parts like the eMMC (the flash memory storage module) or the CPU/GPU. 

The board inside the Switch is relatively thin and that makes it pretty fragile. For all you players who like to carry your Switch around in a pocket – DON’T!

Please, stop that right now. The Switch console is expensive, Switch games are expensive – be more careful! If you bend or sit on your console, you’re practically asking for a blue screen error as these actions will cause important parts to move away from the board. Probably best not to try the hidden Switch web browser exploit, either.

Water damage

Getting water inside your Nintendo Switch will cause various parts and connectors to corrode. That may result in (yep, you guessed it) a blue screen of death. In general, this is one of the best ways to reduce the lifespan of your Nintendo Switch.

The internal board of a faulty blue screen nintendo switch with clear signs of water damage
A blue screen of death Nintendo Switch board with clear water damage. (Image credit: Tronics Fix Forum)

Yeah, don’t get coffee or beer or whatever in there either – this applies to pretty much any liquid that might come into contact with your Switch. 

Corrupted/unnecessary files

The Nintendo Switch blue screen of death can also be caused by software issues. Corrupted save data or other files are some potential culprits. 

Another way you can fudge up your Switch’s ability to boot properly is by modding your console. Yeah, it’s amazing that you can play 3DS on your Switch via emulation but there are certainly risks to using homebrew and modded software.

You can also run into blue screen problems if your Switch is not running the latest system menu version.

Using third-party accessories

Lots of people have reported that using a third-party accessory (most commonly a third-party dock) has caused their Switch to blue screen. 

During my research for this article, I wasn’t able to find a definitive explanation for why third-party accessories might cause the types of errors that produce a blue screen. A couple of my thoughts on this:

  • The third-party dock might not be as clean a fit for your Switch as the official dock. Every time you place your Switch on (or remove it from) a third-party dock, you could be damaging your console if it’s not a good quality connection.
  • Users are perhaps misattributing problems that already exist elsewhere to the coincidental use of third-party accessories. That snowballs when people search for help online and see other articles listing third-party gear as the cause. 

Oh, and by the way, those tiny little Switch game cards are unlikely to be the cause of a blue screen of death.

How do you fix the Nintendo Switch blue screen issue?

Pretty depressing that there are so many ways to blue-screen your Switch, right? Well, cheer up because there are plenty of ways to fix this problem, too. 

The easiest way to fix: Send it to Nintendo

OK, this is for sure a bit of a cop-out on my part. However, sending your Switch to Nintendo so they can fix the problem genuinely is the easiest solution to your Switch’s blue screen of death.

In my experience, Nintendo’s repair service took very little time and effort the last time I had to use it to repair a Joy-Con with stick drift. That service was free, too, which is nice considering how expensive Joy-Cons are in the first place. 

If your device is still under warranty, you may get your blue screen repair done for free, too.

Nintendo Switch blue screen repair cost

If Nintendo isn’t willing to repair your Switch for free (maybe they can clearly see the footprint of a size 11 work boot across the screen), you’re looking at a $99 fee for a standard repair

You can set up a repair on Nintendo’s customer support pages to see the expected cost before you commit to sending anything off.

Just select your country, product type, and model (or input your Switch’s serial number) to get an instant estimate. 

The second easiest way to fix: Restore factory settings

Before you get in a sour mood and send your Switch off to Nintendo for repair, you might want to try booting it in recovery mode and performing a factory reset.

If your blue screen has been caused by a software problem, a factory reset/initialization may be all you need to do to resolve it.

How to launch your Switch in recovery mode:

  1. Turn your console off
  2. Hold down the volume up and volume down buttons and press the power button
  3. Keep the volume up and volume down buttons pressed until the recovery mode menu displays. 
A nintendo switch console booted in recovery mode showing restore to factory settings option as a fix for blue screen of death
Here’s a picture of my Nintendo Switch in Recovery Mode.

Once in recovery mode, you’ll be able to: perform a system update, restore factory settings without deleting save data, or restore factory settings (deleting all data in the system memory). 

A system update will ensure your Switch is running the most up-to-date menu system. 

You can perform a system update by accessing the System Settings menu on the Nintendo Switch home screen, but doing it via recovery mode is the way to go if your Switch is suffering from a severe case of blue screenitis. 

Try restoring settings without deleting your save data first. If that doesn’t work, try restoring factory settings and wiping all the data. That essentially reverts your Switch to the same state it was in when you purchased it. 

A tricky way to fix: Reflow or reball the CPU

If your Switch has sustained impact damage (for example by being dropped or bent) it can often be fixed by reflowing or reballing the CPU. 

This fix requires a certain degree of comfort and confidence with handling electronic equipment as you’ll need to open up your Switch and perform some surgery on its guts. 

Note that I didn’t claim that this fix requires know-how. 

That’s because I think, if you’re a good listener and careful enough, you can learn everything you need to know by watching one of the numerous high-quality video walkthroughs on Youtube

My favorite is TheCod3r’s incredibly comprehensive diagnosis and repair video:

Another tricky way to fix: Replace the fuel gauge

Another commonly cited cause of the Nintendo Switch blue screen of death is a faulty fuel gauge

When I say fuel gauge, I don’t mean the little icon on the screen that shows you how much juice you have left. 

The Nintendo Switch fuel gauge is a small ball grid array (BGA) chip that connects to the battery. It’s the hardware part that controls charging and reads battery levels.

Anyway, it might need replacing. Here’s a very informative thread on Tronics Fix Forum covering Nintendo Switch reflows, reballs, fuel gauges, and plenty more.

An even trickier way to fix: NAND recreation

OK, now we’re getting into real expert territory. 

If none of the above works, you might want to explore recreating or rebuilding your console’s NAND.

NAND is the internal flash storage on your Switch console. It’s possible to back up and subsequently restore NAND from an SD card. 

The big caveat is that a NAND rebuild is much trickier to do (perhaps even impossible?) if your Switch has been patched at any point.

New Retro Repair has a Switch NAND rebuild guide, with several commenters on the video reporting that this method helped them fix their bricked Switch consoles.

The dumbest way to fix: ‘Percussive maintenance’

Disclaimer: I don’t recommend this method but I think it’s funny so I’m sharing it anyway.

Basically, I was researching all the different causes and fixes for the Nintendo Switch blue screen of death and I happened upon a YouTube comment discussing a rather novel solution (which worked for them):

YouTube video comment describing a method for fixing a Nintendo Switch blue screen, shown on a google pixel 5, with phrase 'percussive maintenance' written beside the phone

Yes, it looks like this person literally just punched his console a couple of times and it solved the problem

This actually does make some sense, if you consider that the violent actions of this Switch owner may have caused a lifted CPU to settle back in the right spot, or a loose connection to sit tight again. 

Having said that, just don’t do this.

Original, Lite, or OLED?

The Switch’s internals are basically the same across each of the different models (the OG release, the Switch Lite, and the Switch OLED). 

The only difference is that the Switch Lite packs a slightly different version of the custom NVIDIA Tegra X1 chipset.

That means that the causes and fixes above work for any Switch model.  

Nintendo Switch blue screen causes and fixes – conclusion

Your Nintendo Switch may display a blue screen if there is an error that stops it from booting normally. Errors that cause this may be software-related (corrupted or unnecessary data) or hardware related (usually due to impact or water damage).

Some software-related issues causing a blue screen error can be solved by performing a factory reset or by a NAND rebuild. Common fixes for hardware-related Nintendo Switch blue screen errors include reflowing or reballing the CPU.

Thankfully, none of these Nintendo Switch concepts came to fruition, or the blue screen of death would be the least of your worries!

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