One thing that has baffled most Switch owners since day 1 is the inability to backup your game saves on a stock system. The Nintendo Switch is the first major console since the late 90’s (that I can think of at least, let me know if I’m missing something) that had no way to backup your save data locally. Ever since the first Playstation, saves have been either on a memory card, or if they’re on internal storage, you’re able to easily copy them to a memory card or USB storage.
But when Nintendo launched the Switch, the capability was completely missing. There was just no way to back them up at all. If your Switch got broken or stolen, you lost those 100+ hours you put into Breath of the Wild, you lost the 942 power moons you’d collected in Mario Odyssey, you lost everything. Sure you could still play those games, but all the time you put into them was obliterated. It wasn’t until over a year and a half later, when they finally released Nintendo Online, their paid online service, that they provided any way to backup your saves at all. Even now, on a stock Switch, all you can do is backup your saves to the cloud, and only if you have a subscription. Who does that?!
Nintendo has always been accused of being behind the times, and rightly so. They use outdated, under-powered hardware, and their online service is a literal joke. But absolutely none of that matters, because the Switch is the only way to play some of the best games available today. And it’s the best way to play a lot of other games too.
I say all of that to say that while Nintendo got so much right, they got quite a lot wrong too. That, in a nutshell, is why I hack my systems. So that I can use my hardware the way I want, instead of the way the manufacturers want me to. And that’s why I use Checkpoint. My Switch is banned. I have no way to backup my saves to Nintendo’s cloud, and I don’t trust my kids not to spill something on it, or even myself not to drop it and wreck the thing.
Checkpoint is my favorite save backup tool, but there are two others that I know of, Edizon and JKSV, so if you don’t like Checkpoint, give one of those a try and let me know if you like it better, and why. Checkpoint can be installed from the Homebrew Appstore, or you can create a Checkpoint folder in the Switch folder on your SD card root, and then put the Checkpoint.nro file in there.
Once it’s installed, you can run Checkpoint from the SXOS homebrew menu, but since the memory is limited some of the functions won’t work correctly, so I recommend you always run it by booting the HBMenu in app mode, by holding down the R button, choosing any Switch game, and continuing to hold down the R button until HBMenu launches. This works on any CFW, not just SXOS, and can be used to provide additional resources to homebrew that needs it.
Once Checkpoint is open, in the left panel you’ll see a list of your games. This will only show games that have save data on the system partition, so if you’ve just downloaded a game and are looking to restore a backup save, make sure you start a new game and play it long enough for save data to be created, or Checkpoint won’t show it. Find your game on the left and select it with the A button. If you’re trying to backup everything at once, hold down the Y button until it selects them all.
To create a backup, once you’ve selected the game(s) you want to backup, just press the L button, and it will go through and backup the save data to the /switch/checkpoint/saves folder. If you copy that folder to your computer you can rest easy knowing that no matter what happens to your Switch, you’ve got those saves if you ever need them.
To restore a backed up save, simply select the title you want to restore, scroll down to the backup (by default they are named yyyymmdd-hhmmss username) that you want to restore, and press the R button. It’ll then copy the backed up files over the existing save data for the profile you’re on. If you want to backup or restore on a different profile, just press ZL or ZR to bring up the profile switcher. That way you can backup a save from one profile, and restore it to another. That’s another thing Nintendo would never let you do.
Another cool thing this allows you to do is to restore saves from another console, or even ones you’ve downloaded from the internet. You can find a lot with a Google search, but the best place I’ve found is the database at thetechgame.com. You have to sign up for a free account before you can download anything, but they’ve got about 150 Switch game saves, including Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, and many others.
The easiest way to restore a save from someone else is to first make sure you’ve played that game until there’s save data so that Checkpoint can see it, and then make a backup of your own save, even if you don’t really want to keep it. I’ll explain in a minute.
After you’ve made a backup of your own save game, you can copy the other save to your SD card. They’ll generally be a zip file with a folder in it which is named the same as the Checkpoint save backup. You’ll put that folder into your /switch/checkpoint/saves/<titleid> folder. The reason you wanted to make a backup of your own save before is that if you don’t you’ll need to create a folder here with the correct TitleID or Checkpoint won’t know what game the save is for. Once you’ve copied the folder you downloaded into the correct TitleID folder, you’ll see it in the list when you open Checkpoint again. If you haven’t already installed it, NXMTP makes copying files to your Switch a breeze.
The last main thing I’m going to talk about today is how to use Checkpoint to download cheat files automatically. I showed you in the past how to download and install cheat databases from https://www.switchcheatsdb.com/. While this is still a valid way to do it, if you don’t have a computer handy, you can also use Checkpoint to install cheats for some games. The database Checkpoint uses is offline, and is only up to date as of the last release, unless you build it from source. In this case, Checkpoint was last updated on 12/9, so you won’t find cheats for any newer games, and if the game has been updated since then, the cheats may not work either, so proceed at your own risk.
To create a cheat file, you’ll just need to select the game like you were going to backup or restore the save, and then click down the R stick to bring up the cheat menu. You can press Y to select all the cheats if you’re using SXOS because their Cheat Menu will still ask you which ones you want to activate. For other CFW you just pick the ones you want to activate and press B to back out. It will ask you if you want to create the cheat file, so choose yes. On Atmosphere based CFW, that’s it, the cheats will be active the next time you run the game, and will remain active until you disable them.
For SXOS it’s a bit more complicated. Because Checkpoint (like most homebrew) was written with Atmosphere compatibility prioritized, it will save the cheat file to /Atmosphere/contents/<titleid>. You can’t do anything with it there. If it didn’t create that folder for you, then you may need to create it manually. I already had the folder because I do a lot of testing on different CFW, so let me know if you had to make one manually.
What you’ll need to do is just copy the <titleid> folder out of /Atmosphere/contents to /sxos/titles/ in order for the SXOS cheat menu to see it. Then just like normal, open the game, hit home, go to Album, pop over to Cheats, and choose Select Cheats. It will show you the ones you selected.
This has been a pretty long article, if you’re confused at all check out the embedded video, or feel free to send me a message on Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or wherever you can find me. I’m always happy to help.