How to upgrade your Nintendo 3DS SD card

EDIT 25/10/2013: I’ve updated this guide to now include SDXC cards, which need to be specially formatted before you try to migrate. Find the new guide here.

With demos now available on the 3DS eShop, it’s likely your original 2GB SD card will become a bit full, if it hasn’t done already. I found myself in this position today. Thankfully, I had a spare 4GB to “upgrade” to.

You can, of course, just swap your old card for your new one, but then any pictures you’ve taken and games you’ve downloaded and “extra data” and stuff won’t be on there unless you swap cards again. And we all know that swapping SD cards is the worst of all First World Problems.

Using this method, you can transfer everything from your old card onto your new card:

  1. Mount your old card on your computer.
  2. Create a folder on your computer and copy EVERYTHING from the card to it.
  3. While it’s doing that, put your new card in your 3DS and turn the 3DS on. It’ll initialise the card for you.
  4. When both these have finished, mount the new card in your computer.
  5. Open the folder you made on your computer, and copy everything to the root of the new card. If you’re asked to overwrite folders, or merge folders, say “yes”.
  6. When the copying has finished, you’re almost there. Next, on the new card, open the folder called “Nintendo 3DS”. Inside there will be folder with a huge string of letters and numbers for the name – open that.
  7. Inside that folder will be two folders with long random names. One of these is the folder tied to your old card, the other is the one tied to your new card. Simply copy the contents (not the folder itself) of the old one (it’ll be the one with the larger filesize) into the other one – merging and overwriting again if necessary.
  8. Put the new card back in your 3DS, reboot it if necessary, and you’re away!


Filed under games, howto

49 Responses to How to upgrade your Nintendo 3DS SD card

  1. Travis

    Thanks. This is the only way my SanDisk ULTRA 8GB class6 transferred from my original. It would work on my 3DS but not hold the pics, music & all the games doing it the way. Even with the Nintendo Support 800# they just read off what wasn’t working on the Nintendo web site. Glad I found this article, I was about to buy a dif SD card.

  2. andi

    ow man, I just considered how your tutorial work if the system is had formatting..??!
    I just follow your tutorial. any step is done, but it never work. and I remembered that my system has been formated. ow man, I dunno how to make it work. I have a plenty $20 I purchased from e-Shop..
    help .. T__T

  3. Anomyous

    Thank you for the tutorial. I did like it say and it it work perfect.

  4. Nintendo itself just says on their site to copy everything from the old SD card directly to the new one, no “initialitizing” of the new one first or copying between folders. Is there a benefit to using the method on this site?

  5. deKay

    Hi Miguel,

    Yes – this method allows everything to work. If you use the “Nintendo method”, sometimes some of your photos, videos, game extra data, downloaded content or settings are not carried across.

    Well, they are, but they’re not accessible.

  6. Ah I see, thank you. I was just worried this could cause performance issues or something. I just got a 16GB card and tried this method, and it works like a charm!

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  8. Thanks for posting these directions. It worked perfectly! We were talking about upgrading 3DS memory cards on the Video Game Hangover podcast and one of my co-hosts mentioned your tutorial.

  9. deKay

    So I see! I saw the pingback :)

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  15. andy

    I did everything on this and couldn’t get it to work please help!

    The card formats fine by the 3DS it is a samsung 16gb Class 10

  16. Lizard Dude

    Shouldn’t there be a step between 7 and 8 of then deleting the folder tied to the old card? Otherwise you have two copies of all your extra data (DLC) wasting space.

  17. Lizard Dude

    Nevermind: After experimenting, deleting the folder tied to the old card makes the 3DS not recognize the card at all. But deleting the folder tied to the new card has no ill effects (and eliminates the duplicate data created from following your step 7).

    So I’m confused as to why your step 7 isn’t just “Delete the folder tied to the new card”.

  18. deKay

    Perhaps I should have said “move” rather than “copy” – but yes, you can just delete the folder as you say.

  19. Victor

    I’m confused now, do you move the files from the old card folder to the new one or just delete the new card folder in step 7?

  20. Wanted to say thanks — found this tutorial through Google and it saved my bacon. Doing a straight copy of all folders from one card to another didn’t work, but doing the merge you suggested in step 7 made it happen!

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  22. Spiceymike

    I’m not sure if something has changed since the last major 3DS update about a month ago as I noticed all I had to do was a simple copy across to my new SD card and there was no process where the card had to initialise. At the same time though I transferred from a regular 3DS to an XL model so I’m not sure whether that had anything to do it either.

    • deKay

      Yeah, that is, and has always been, the official way of doing it. Problem is, not everything gets transferred, or works properly when done like this. Not everyone will have an issue, but some will be missing save data, extra data, photos they’ve taken, screenshots, settings, etc.

  23. Spiceymike

    Ah ok, cheers. I did have an issue where my Streetpass data corrupted because I realised it was about to do a format on the old SD card and I turned it off as it was doing it. Luckily I was able to use Recuva which recovered those files and I overwrote them back onto the new SD card which fortunately did the trick. Very useful tool :D .

  24. Thefreeman500

    Thanks so much! Worked perfectly just in time for Pokemon X/Y!

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  26. deKay

    I’ve updated this guide to include 64GB/128GB+ SDXC cards, which need an extra step:

  27. Joe

    I’m not sure what you mean for Step 6. When I click on the 3DS folder, there’s at least 4 different folders with numbers and letters.

  28. deKay

    Someone else mentioned this too. You can move all the folders over from one card to the other, but I’m not 100% sure which one needs to merge. Check inside each of the folders – I suspect only one of them contains anything.

  29. mkIX

    Hi DeKay. Nice guide, but I’m confused with what you and Lizard Dude posted regarding step 7; your comments seem to contradict one another.

    If I was following correctly, Lizard Dude said that when he followed your guide and deleted the files associated with the old card, it wouldn’t work on the 3ds. But he was able to just delete the file associated with the new card and it did.

    You stated to move/merge the files associated with the old card to the new card’s folder (and I assume delete the old card files?)

    Clearly these two methods seem to suggest the opposite from one another.

    Like Lizard Dude, I don’t want dead weight on my card, so which way actually accomplishes this while keeping the new card compatible with the 3ds?

  30. deKay

    I can only assume there was an issue with either the card, or he was getting the folder names the other way round. If the 3DS “doesn’t recognise the card”, that’s not an issue with the data on it, more the hardware.

  31. Alex

    I keep getting an error when copying the data to new SDXC card, error 0x80070079: The semaphore timeout period has expired, for file

    • deKay

      Sounds like a duff card to me. It’s possible it might just be formatted incorrectly, but the only time I’ve ever had any “semaphore” issues have been with faulty cards.

  32. Ryuuken

    Does this need to be done before a system transfer, or after, during?

  33. CuriousTurtle

    Well, I’ve tried and tried and tried, but I can’t make it work *sad face*

  34. CuriousTurtle

    Scratch that! I managed it eventually. I think I was copying the whole folder across, not just the things inside the folder… if that makes sense :-/

  35. Thanks for the guide! Been looking everywhere on the internet how to do this and now I do, thanks to you. :)

  36. It worked! I followed the Nintendo procedure and everything disappeared… then I found this post, luckily I kept all the files on my computer… and it worked! Everything has appeared again!
    I’d like to donate if you provide a paypal link.

    • deKay

      That’s good news! No donation necessary, but if you really must then please bung a few quid (or dollars, or rupees, or whatever your local currency is) to a deserving charity instead.

  37. Sean Duffy

    Hello, I’m having so much trouble with this. I just want my save files back. I’ve tried this a few times and I think I’m doing something wrong. Would you be willing to set up a screen share sometime and you could go through and take care of the folders/files? I would greatly appreciate it

  38. Koni

    Thanks for the help. Didn’t work for me at all, though. The only thing I’m mad about losing is my Animal Crossing save data.

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  40. Jarkko

    Brilliant, thank you for helping (someone who practically is, when it come to tech,) a caveman out :P

  41. Thank you. for some reason just doing the normal drag and drop wasnt working for me (wouldnt open street pass) but after following your steps it worked great!

  42. I KNEW there was a step missing when I tried the Nintendo method of “Just copy everything over” and it didn’t find anything on the card.
    Nintendo issed the “Oh yeah BTW I created a new folder and are looking in there” part.

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