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Nintendo Switch system software
Operating system and user interface of the Nintendo Switch
DeveloperNintendo
HAL Laboratory[1]
Written inC, C++ and HTML for eShop and online services settings
OS familyProprietary OS, derivative of Nintendo 3DS system software (partially Unix-like via certain components which are based on FreeBSD and Android)
Working stateCurrent
Source modelClosed source
Initial release1.0.0 / March 3, 2017; 6 years ago (2017-03-03)
Latest release17.0.1 / December 4, 2023; 2 months ago (2023-12-04)[2]
Available in
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • Dutch
  • English (United Kingdom)
  • English (United States)
  • French (Canada)
  • French (France)
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Portuguese (Portugal)
  • Russian
  • Spanish (Latin America)
  • Spanish (Spain)
Update methodDirect download
PlatformsNintendo Switch
Nintendo Switch Lite
Nintendo Switch OLED
Preceded byNintendo 3DS system software
Wii U system software
Official websitesupport.nintendo.com

The Nintendo Switch system software (also known by its codename Horizon)[3] is an updatable firmware and operating system used by the Nintendo Switch video game console. It is based on a proprietary microkernel. The UI includes a HOME screen, consisting of the top bar, the screenshot viewer ("Album") Icons, and shortcuts to the Nintendo eShop, News, and Settings.

Technology

OS

Nintendo has released only limited information about the Switch's internals to the public. However, computer security researchers, homebrew software developers, and the authors of emulators have all analyzed the operating system in great depth.[4][5][3]

Notable findings include that the Switch operating system is codenamed Horizon, that it is an evolution of the Nintendo 3DS system software, and that it implements a proprietary microkernel architecture.[4][3] All drivers run in userspace, including the Nvidia driver which the security researchers described as "kind of similar to the Linux driver". The graphics driver features an undocumented thin API layer, called NVN, which is "kind of like Vulkan"[4] but exposes most hardware features like OpenGL compatibility profile with Nvidia extensions. All userspace processes are sandboxed and use Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), a computer security technique involved in preventing exploitation of memory corruption vulnerabilities.[4][3]

Nintendo made efforts to design the system software to be as minimalist as possible, with the home menu's graphical assets using less than 200 kilobytes. This minimalism is meant to improve system performance and launch games faster.[6]

As early as July 2018, Nintendo has been trying to counter Switch homebrewing and piracy. Measures include an online ban, and on the hardware side, patching of the Tegra to prevent exploits.[7] On 11 December 2018, Nintendo sued Mikel Euskaldunak for selling a Switch modification that can play pirated games.[8] Since August 2019, the difficulty of homebrewing has gone up, as the new Mariko chip replaced the old Erista chip.[9][10] After the release of the Lite in late 2019, tools for hacking all Switch consoles were announced.[11] In September 2020, Gary Bowser was arrested in the Dominican Republic, and later appeared in court in the USA afterwards.[12] The prosecution alleges that Bowser was a piracy group leader.[13]

Open source components

Despite popular misconceptions to the contrary, Horizon is not largely derived from FreeBSD code, nor from Android, although the software licence[14] and reverse engineering efforts[15][16] have revealed that Nintendo does use some code from both in some system services and drivers. For example, the networking stack in the Switch OS is derived at least in part from FreeBSD code.[15] Nintendo's use of FreeBSD networking code is legal as it is made available under the permissive BSD licence, and not even particularly unusual – for instance, the Microsoft Windows TCP/IP stack was originally derived from BSD code in a similar fashion.[17]

Components derived from Android code include the Stagefright multimedia framework,[18] as well as components of the graphics stack[5] including the display server (derived from SurfaceFlinger)[16] and the graphics driver (which seems to be derived from Nvidia's proprietary Linux driver).[19]

Although a full web browser intended for general browsing is not available on the console as of February 2023, several so-called 'applets' are included which utilise the WebKit rendering engine to display web content within a stripped back interface. A WebKit-powered applet is used to allow users to log in to captive portals when connecting to certain wireless networks, as well as for operating system features such as the Nintendo eShop, social media integrations, and digital manuals.[20][21]

User interface

Home screen

The Nintendo Switch home screen has battery, internet and time information in the top right corner, and below it is a grid showing all software on the system, downloaded or physical. Underneath that it has shortcuts to OS functions such as Nintendo Switch Online, the News, eShop, Album, Controller settings, System Settings, and a Sleep Mode button.[22] Unlike previous Nintendo systems, the Nintendo Switch home screen currently lacks an internet browser and a messaging system.

News

The News function of the Nintendo Switch software allows users to read gaming news and advertisements provided by Nintendo and third-party developers.[23] News is also displayed when the system is locked.[24]

The News interface was originally available in the 1.0.0 version of the software, however new headlines were not transmitted until the 2.0.0 update was released. The 3.0.0 update revamped the News system, adding multiple news "channels" for different games that users can subscribe to. The news headlines that appear depend on which channels are subscribed to. The 4.0.0 update further improved the News screen, updating its layout. The 9.0.0 update added search support to the News channel, allowing users to narrow the list via filters or free text.[2] The 10.0.0 update added a "Bookmark" feature, allowing users to save their favorite News articles.[25][23]

Nintendo eShop

Main article: Nintendo eShop

The Nintendo eShop option on the Home menu opens a WebKit-based[21] interface that allows games to be purchased and downloaded from the Nintendo eShop.

As well as games, the eShop offers select non-gaming apps. Niconico, a popular Japanese video service, launched for the Switch in Japan on 13 July 2017 and was the Switch's first third-party media app in any market.[26] Hulu was the first video streaming application released for the Switch in the United States on 9 November 2017.[27] In June 2018, Fils-Aimé said that conversations to bring Netflix to the Switch were "on-going".[28] A YouTube application was released on 8 November 2018.[29] On 4 November 2020, a trial version app of the Tencent Video streaming service was launched exclusively for Nintendo Switch consoles officially distributed by Tencent in mainland China. An official version app will be launched at a later date.[30] Funimation launched their own streaming app for the Nintendo Switch, featuring a reworked layout and new functions. The app became available via eShop in the United States and Canada on 15 December 2020, and will launch in various other countries at a later date,[31] such as the United Kingdom and Ireland on 22 March 2021.[32] A version of the Twitch app launched for the Nintendo Switch on 11 November 2021 in most regions worldwide. The eShop version of the app allows users to watch or follow any live or recorded content on Twitch, but does not support any native ability for Switch players to contribute content.[33]

Korg Gadget, a music production app, was released for the Nintendo Switch on 26 April 2018.[34] InkyPen, a comics and manga subscription app, launched exclusively on the Switch worldwide in December 2018.[35] Izneo, another comics and manga subscription service, was released for the Switch in February 2019.[36] FUZE4, a text-based programming language app, was released in August 2019.[37]

Album

The Album stores captured screenshots and videos. Pressing the "Capture" button on the controller, in supported software, will save a screenshot, either to the microSD card, or to the system memory. The Album allows users to view screenshots that have been taken. Screenshots can be edited by adding text, and they can be shared to Facebook or Twitter.[38] In addition, in supported games, holding down the Capture button briefly will save the last 30 seconds of video to the Album. It can then be trimmed and posted online.[39]

The 2.0.0 update added the ability to post screenshots to Facebook or Twitter from within the system UI, making it easier to share screenshots. The 4.0.0 update added support for saving 30 second videos, in compatible games. The 14.0.0 updated added the ability to download screenshots and videos to a PC via a USB cable or to a Mobile device via a webpage hosting the files generated by the Switch.

Regardless of the amount of free space on the systems internal memory or microSD card there is a hard limit on the number of screenshots and videos that can be stored.[40]

Controllers

The Controllers menu allows controllers to be paired, disconnected, or reconnected. The 3.0.0 update added the "Find Controllers" option, which allows any nearby controllers that have been paired to be remotely turned on and vibrated, to help find lost controllers.[41]

Settings

The Settings option allows for system settings to be changed, and includes other functionality, such as creating Miis.[42]

Recovery Mode

The Nintendo Switch has a hidden Recovery Mode (RCM) feature, which can be accessed by powering off the unit, then using a specially-constructed jig to short-circuit two pins on the right-hand Joy-Con connector, and then holding down the volume up button while powering on the unit. The unit would then boot without the Nintendo logo, indicating that Recovery Mode has been successfully activated. The feature is also used as an exploit on unpatched Switch V1 units to run homebrew software.[43]

History of updates

The initial version of the system software for Nintendo Switch on the launch day consoles was updated as a "day one" patch on 3 March 2017, the console's launch date.[44] The update added online features that were previously missing from the original software before its official launch date. Some notable features of this update are access to the Nintendo eShop as well as the ability to add friends to a friends list, similar to that of the Nintendo 3DS.[45] On 7 June 2021, patch 12.0.3 was released, but was removed 12 hours later for problems with network connections as well as issues with MicroSDXC cards.[46]

The April 2021 firmware update was found by dataminers to have added rudimentary support for Bluetooth audio.[47][48] This support was expanded and made available to regular users on September 14, 2021, when patch 13.0 was released. Patch 13.0 also added the ability to apply software updates to the Switch Dock (only applicable for docks released with the Switch OLED Model, which have a built-in LAN port), and a new setting for Sleep Mode that allows the Switch to maintain an Internet connection when the Switch is asleep to download updates. When disabled, the console will only connect to the Internet occasionally when asleep, in order to save power. Additionally, Patch 13.0 changed the method to initiate a control stick calibration and allowed users to view their wireless internet frequency band (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz) on the Internet Connection Status page.

In November 2021, the 13.1.0 version update added support for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.[49]

The 14.0.0 update in March 2022 added a Groups feature, allowing users to sort games into groups as a means to declutter the game collection screen.[50]

Version Patch date Notes
1.0.0 March 3, 2017 Prelaunch system.
2.0.0 March 3, 2017 Network features integrated.

System features integrated.

  • Game updates
  • Power syncing with TV
  • Displaying battery percentage on the HOME Menu
  • MicroSD Card formatting
2.1.0 March 27, 2017 General stability improvements.
2.2.0 April 17, 2017 General stability improvements.
2.3.0 May 15, 2017 General stability improvements.
3.0.0 June 19, 2017 New features integrated.
  • Registering channels for game-specific news
  • Register friends from Nintendo Network friend lists
  • Notifications for friend's online activity
  • Find controllers via rumble
  • Change user icon order on the HOME Menu
  • 6 new user icons
  • Change system volume from Quick Settings
  • Lower maximum volume for headphones
  • Grayscale and inverted color options
  • Pro Controller wired compatibility
  • Controller updates
  • Software deleting suggestions when storage is full
  • Prevented update fails which result in not being able to play the game
  • Prevented input change on certain TVs
3.0.1 July 13, 2017 General stability improvements.
  • Prevented battery percentage from not displaying correctly
3.0.2 September 5, 2017 Nintendo Switch Online improvements.
  • Added online play in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

General stability improvements.

4.0.0 October 18, 2017 New system features integrated.
  • Video capturing
  • 12 new user icons
  • Transfer user and save data between systems
  • Pre-purchasing on Nintendo eShop
  • News feed redesign
  • News auto-addition and deletions
  • Matching game versions between systems
  • Compatibility with Wii U GameCube Adapters
  • Compatibility with USB headsets
4.0.1 October 25, 2017 General stability improvements.
  • Reverted HDMI connection process to 3.0.2
4.1.0 December 4, 2017 General stability improvements.
  • Fixed various motion controls issues
5.0.0 March 12, 2018 New system features integrated.
  • Register friends from Facebook and Twitter followers
  • 24 new user icons
  • Faster download process for PC and smart device purchases
  • News feed filtering
  • Parental Controls PIN switched from number pad to stick tilting
  • Video restrictions with Parental Controls
  • Notifications for pre-purchased software
  • Pro Controller grip colors display
5.0.1 March 26, 2018 General stability improvements.
5.0.2 April 16, 2018 General stability improvements.
  • Motion controls would respond incorrectly in games
  • User icons for recommended friends would display incorrectly
5.1.0 May 30, 2018 General stability improvements.
6.0.0 September 18, 2018 Nintendo Switch Online improvements.
  • Cloud backup for save data

New system features integrated.

  • Upload four screenshots at once on social network services
  • New Captain Toad user icons
  • Play digital software and content on non-primary consoles
  • News app articles limited based upon parental control settings
  • Change layout of USB keyboard to desired language
6.0.1 October 8, 2018 General stability improvements.
  • Internet connection speed tests would not display the correct results
  • Licensed controllers' motion controls would respond incorrectly
6.1.0 October 29, 2018 General stability improvements.
  • Games would not recognise Nintendo Switch Online memberships
6.2.0 November 19, 2018 Game stability improvements.
7.0.0 January 28, 2019 New features integrated.

General stability improvements.

7.0.1 February 18, 2019 General stability improvements.
8.0.0 April 15, 2019 New features integrated.
  • Sort software in the All Software view from the HOME menu.
  • View All Available News option available within News
  • Select 15 user icons from Splatoon 2 and Yoshi's Crafted World
  • Ability to Transfer Your Data between Nintendo Switch systems
  • Zoom in and out on the HOME menu and in games
  • Prevent the system from waking when connecting to an AC adapter
  • VR Mode restriction available within Parental Controls
  • Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea available for selection in Region settings
  • Name changes
    • Save Data Cloud Backup > Save Data Cloud
    • Transfer Your User and Save Data > Transfer Your User Data

General stability improvements.

8.0.1 April 23, 2019 General stability improvements.
8.1.0 June 17, 2019 General stability improvements.
9.0.0 September 9, 2019 New features integrated
  • Search using filters or free text in News
  • Use a QR Code displayed on-screen to sign into your Nintendo Account
  • Alarm notifications added to System Settings
  • Configure touch screen sensitivity for Standard and Style sensitivity
  • Option to turn on/off the system button (Nintendo Switch Lite only)
9.0.1 September 30, 2019 General stability improvements.
  • Errors triggered during gameplay
  • Display of an instruction to remove the Joy-Con during initial Nintendo Switch Lite setup
9.1.0 December 4, 2019 General stability improvements.
  • Animation not displaying correctly when attaching a Joy-Con to the Nintendo Switch console
9.2.0 March 3, 2020 General stability improvements.
10.0.0 April 14, 2020 New features integrated.
  • Bookmarks feature added to News
  • Transfer software data between system memory and an SD card
  • Ability to remap the controller buttons
  • Play Activity Settings in added User Settings
  • Six new user icons from Animal Crossing: New Horizons
10.0.1 April 22, 2020 General stability improvements.
10.0.2 April 30, 2020 General stability improvements
  • Consoles with system version 10.0.0 or 10.0.1 could not set up a new Pro Controller
10.0.3 May 26, 2020 General stability improvements.
10.0.4 June 5, 2020 Following issues fixed.
  • Adding funds in some countries or regions using a new credit or to register card information were not possible
10.1.0 July 14, 2020 General stability improvements.
10.1.1 July 28, 2020 General stability improvements.

(China only)[51]

10.2.0 September 15, 2020 General stability improvements
11.0.0 December 1, 2020 New features integrated.
  • Nintendo Switch Online added to the HOME Menu.
  • Automatic downloads of save data
  • Trending addition to the User Page
  • Transfer screenshots and videos to smart devices
  • Ability to transfer screenshots and videos to a computer via USB
  • Ability to prioritize downloads
  • New user icons to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros.
  • Ability to name preset button mappings
  • Brazilian Portuguese is now a supported language

General stability improvements with unknown fixed issues.

11.0.1 December 11, 2020 Following issues fixed.
  • Some games could not be played correctly
  • On some TVs, an image would not be displayed and an error would occur
  • The Control Stick and C Stick on the Nintendo GameCube controller would respond incorrectly

General stability improvements.

12.0.0 April 6, 2021 Following issues fixed.
  • In rare cases, an automatic backup of save data would be interrupted if a communication error occurred
12.0.1 April 20, 2021 General stability improvements.
12.0.2 May 12, 2021 General stability improvements.
12.0.3 June 8, 2021 General stability improvements.
12.1.0 July 6, 2021 New features integrated.
  • Limited space on internal storage or an microSD card during a software download will trigger a prompt to delete old data to make space

General stability improvements.

13.0.0 September 15, 2021 New features integrated,
  • Bluetooth audio support was opened up
  • Update Dock option added into System Settings for docks with a LAN port
  • Maintain Internet Connection in Sleep Mode option added into System Settings
  • Initiating Calibrate Control Sticks in System Settings changed
  • Ability to view whether a wireless network connection is 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz in Connection Status
13.1.0 October 26, 2021 New features integrated.
  • Support added for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack

General stability improvements.

13.2.0 December 1, 2021 General stability improvements.
13.2.1 January 20, 2022 General stability improvements.
14.0.0 March 22, 2022 New features integrated.
  • The Groups feature was added to All Software on the HOME Menu
  • Ability to control Bluetooth audio device volume through the volume buttons
14.1.0 April 5, 2022 New features integrated.
  • Platinum Point Notification Setting added under Notification settings
14.1.1 April 19, 2022 General stability improvements.
14.1.2 June 14, 2022 General stability improvements.
15.0.0 October 11, 2022 The following features have changed.
  • The Bluetooth Audio menu within System Settings have moved
  • Screenshots can be taken within the Nintendo Switch Online application on the HOME Menu.

General stability improvements.

15.0.1 October 31, 2022 Following issues fixed.
  • Error Code: 2181-1000 occurred when playing content from a console that is not the primary console
  • Screenshots could not be taken in specific in-game scenes for some games

General stability improvements.

16.0.0 February 20, 2023 The following feature has changed.
  • User nicknames that cannot be used will be replaced with “???”

General stability improvements.

16.0.1 March 23, 2023 General stability improvements.
16.0.2 April 17, 2023 General stability improvements.
16.0.3 May 8, 2023 General stability improvements.
16.1.0 August 21, 2023 General stability improvements.
17.0.0 October 10, 2023 General stability improvements.
17.0.1 December 4, 2023 Following issues fixed.
  • Resolved an issue with local communication for some software.

General stability improvements.

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