How to hack your Nintendo Switch, 2022 Edition: HWFLY and SX Clones, RCM, OLED, unpatched vs patched… trying to clear it up for you
Disclaimer: This is an updated version of a post we published last year, that we felt deserved an upgrade. Unfortunately, not much has changed since 2021, but the wider availability (and fragmentation) of HWFLY Clones, as well as the OLED Switch meant additional explanations were necessary.
More and more people are buying a Nintendo Switch only to realize they cannot easily hack it in 2022. 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 main objective is to hack a recently purchased Switch, your best bet is to resell it and buy an unpatched V1 Switch instead.
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 cheaper than the other models.
To rephrase: the only Switch consoles you can easily hack in 2022 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), 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).
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)
So, long story short, if you don’t have an “unpatched V1” console, hacking your Switch in 2022 is not for the faint of heart, and will require soldering skills as well as hard to find, expensive modchips.
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 recently getting a 4.5 year jail sentence as well as millions to repay to Nintendo). Since then the production of these chips has stopped, making them really hard to find, and really expensive.
Last year, 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”.
The nightmare of the many variations of HWFLY modchip clones
The prices of these HWFLY devices seem to be around $150 nowadays, but they are “fairly” hard to find (easier than last year, though). You won’t find them on typical modchip resellers, because of Nintendo’s recent and very tangible legal threats. Some stores on Chinese sites such as Aliexpress seem to have them in stock though, and from our research they are much easier to find than last year, and with less price fluctuation.
However: a lot of variations and copycats have emerged from the ashes of Team Xecuter’s modchips, and it seems they’re not all made equal. Some older versions for example only supported “Mariko” (V2) Switch models, and did not work on the “original” (Patched V1 a.k.a Patched Erista) models.
Furthermore if you own an OLED model, you’ll want to tread carefully, as some older versions of these chips were designed only for the older models (SX Lite or regular switch), and have been reported to brick the newer OLED model. This thread on GBATemp by user Mena attempts to explain and fix the issue.
Long story short, some older versions of the chip are packaged with an older firmware that does not handle the OLED model properly. Your solution is to either buy a modchip that is OLED-specific (look for “OLED Full set” or ask the reseller), or update the firmware on your older modchip. Confused already? It doesn’t stop here. Some of the older chips cannot have their firmware updated easily. So, yeah… tread carefully.
ModzvilleUSA! has a great video explaining which modchips he recommends for OLED, and how to install them. Definitely a recommended video if you’re planning to mod an OLED model:
In particular, ModzvilleUSA has strong recommendations on the layout of the chip you’ll buy, to install in an OLED. Although they all “work”, depending on the layout, they might make your life heck when comes the time to fit them in your OLED Switch. He recommends getting a modchip where the second port is facing down rather than outwards.
(Sthetix also is a great reference on Twitter if you want to dive into details)
In any case if you go that route, you’ll have to be double careful that you buy a chip that works with your specific model.
So, how do I hack my Switch Lite, Switch OLED, Patched V1 Switch, or V2 “Mariko” Switch in 2022?
Let me go straight to the point: if you want to hack one of these models in 2022, 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. Nonetheless, if you’re willing to investigate more “manual” options for your device:
Switch Lite: Buy an SX Lite modchip or a HWFLY Lite and install it yourself.
Switch OLED: Buy an OLED-specific HWFLY and install it yourself, following ModzvilleUSA’s video tips above.
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).
Mariko Switch (V2): You can either find an SX Core modchip (practically impossible to find), or a HWFLY clone (your best bet currently)
Patched V1 Switch: either buy an SX Core modchip and install it yourself (those are practically impossible to find today), or get a new HWFLY clone (make sure it’s labeled as “V3”, as older models from 2021 were not compatible with the Patched V1 Switch)
Not sure which one: either buy an SX Core modchip and install it yourself (those are practically impossible to find today), or get a new HWFLY clone (make sure it’s labeled as “V3”)
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.
Hacking a Nintendo Switch in 2022 is slightly easier than it was in 2021, due to larger availability and compatibility of the HWFLY modchip clones. However, there is a huge fragmentation of the models that makes it hard to buy these expensive devices without making a mistake, let alone soldering and installing such fiddly devices. As a conclusion, the statement we made that Nintendo stopped hacking in its tracks is still relevant, more than a year later.