Once more the time has come to update my seemingly rather popular guide to upgrading your Nintendo 3DS SD card (previously here). This time, I’m going to cover several scenarios – upgrading your SD (or SDHC) card to another SD (or SDHC) card, upgrading your SD/SDHC card to a 64GB or larger SDXC card, and upgrading your 3DS to a New 3DS, transferring everything to a MicroSD/SDXC. EDITED 11/02/15 to clarify some points in Section 3
Firstly, some information:
Nintendo’s published method for transferring data from SD card to SD card mostly works, but some stuff sometimes doesn’t make the transfer, or does but is inaccessible. For example, sometimes photos are missing, or you lose your play coins or streetpasses. My method (Section 1, below) transfers and retains access to the lot.
Also, Nintendo only officially support SDHC cards of up to 32GB in capacity, but in fact SDXC cards work too. The main incompatibility is not with the cards themselves, but with the partition format SDXC cards use – by default, exFAT, or sometimes NTFS. Neither of these can be read by a 3DS.
Thankfully, 64GB and 128GB SDXC cards can still be formatted to 3DS-usable FAT32 format. Unfortunately, Windows 7 (and 8) has made this difficult to do by not including the option on the standard disk formatting utility.
So, if you want to use a larger than 32GB card, then follow the steps below (in Section 2) carefully before transferring your 3DS data.
In addition, Nintendo also have a guide for migrating all your games, saves, data, software licences and NNID from one 3DS to another. This works fine, but there’s a faster way if you have a lot of data and have a New 3DS which only takes a Micro SD (or Micro SDHC, or Micro SDXC) card rather than a full size one. That’s Section 3, below.
Section 1 – Transferring to a new card
If you just want to transfer data from one SD card to another, and the new card is 32GB or less, this is the guide for you.
- Mount your old card on your computer.
- Create a folder on your computer and copy EVERYTHING from the card to it.
- While it’s doing that, put your new card in your 3DS and turn the 3DS on. It’ll initialise the card for you.
- When both these have finished, mount the new card in your computer.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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. *NOTE! Once you’ve confirmed everything is working, you can delete the old folder to make some space.
- Put the new card back in your 3DS, reboot it if necessary, and you’re away!
Section 2 – Preparing an SDXC card for use in a 3DS
If you want to transfer data from an SD card to an SDXC card (more than 32GB), then read this guide on how to prepare your SDXC card. I’m often asked which cards I recommend. I personally use both a Lexar Professional 64GB Class 10 UHS-1 400x SDXC card, and a Samsung 64GB Evo Micro SDXC UHS-I Class 10 MicroSDXC card. Most cards should work, but I’d stick to big name, reliable brands like Samsung, Kingston, Lexar and Crucial, and avoid “own-brand” cheap cards. Also, back your SD card up to a computer regularly!
- There are many ways to format a card, but the method I used involved using the free version of MiniTool Partition Wizard. Download that and install it. Other formatters will probably work – just use the same settings from step 4 below.
- Put your new SDXC card in your PC’s card reader, and open MiniTool, choosing Partition Wizard.
- Choose your card in the list of drives (be VERY careful you choose the right one!) and delete the partition using the Delete button on the toolbar.
- Now Create a new partition in the freed space. Make sure you choose these options: “Create As: Primary”, “File System: FAT32” and “Cluster Size: 32kb”. You’ll also want to set a drive letter otherwise it won’t show up in Windows for when you want to copy stuff to it! *NOTE: Some people have suggested a cluster size of 64kb results in faster data load times. I haven’t seen any difference, but it may make a difference on some cards.
- Click “OK” to accept these settings, and then Apply (on the toolbar) to actually commit the deed to the card.
- When it’s done, that’s it! Your card is now ready for use in a 3DS.
- To transfer the data from your old card to this new one, read the guide in Section 1 on this page.
Section 3 – Super fast migration from a 3DS to a MicroSD/HC/XC New 3DS
If you are upgrading a 3DS to a New 3DS (that’s the Nintendo New 3DS, with the second stick and ZL and ZR buttons, rather than just a “new” 3DS – yes, Nintendo are unnecessarily confusing) and want the quickest way to transfer all your files, follow this guide.
First, you’ll need the following:
- Your “old” 3DS and its SD card and charger, connected to the internet
- Your New 3DS and charger, connected to the internet
- A MicroSD card that is the same capacity or bigger than the data stored on your “old” SD card
- A MicroSD to SD adapter
With all that to hand, we can begin:
- Put the new MicroSD card in the SD adapter
- Treating this MicroSD card (in the adapter) as a normal new SD card, transfer the data from your old card to your new card as described in my guide above in Section 1. If the new MicroSD card is a SDXC card (bigger than 32GB), then follow my guide in Section 2 then follow my guide in Section 1.
- When you’ve done that, you should have all your data on the new MicroSD card in the SD adapter. Put this new card, in the adapter, back into your OLD 3DS.
- Check you can access everything on it. If you’ve followed my guides and the card is good, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Now, with both 3DS consoles plugged into mains power (or at least with fully charged batteries if you want to risk it! I don’t recommend this though!) and connected to the internet, you can begin the transfer process. If you have not yet used your New 3DS, the transfer option below appears as part of the initial setup process, so you won’t need to find the menu option. If you have used your New 3DS already, be aware this process will wipe everything on it – games, photos, settings… everything!
- On your OLD 3DS, go into System Settings, then Other Settings and choose System Transfer. Choose “Between 3DS systems”. You may be asked to perform a system update – make sure you do.
- On your NEW New 3DS (Grr, Nintendo!) do the same thing.
- On your OLD 3DS, choose “Send from this system”.
- On your NEW New 3DS choose “Receive from a 3DS system”.
- Now for the most part, you can follow all the on screen instructions. One important step is when you’re asked “Are you using an SD card or miniSD card with your system?” you must say “No” (as you’re using a microSD card), and another is when you’re given three options on how you want all your games transferred. You can choose:
- “Wireless Transfer (All Data)” – Transfer the lot over wifi (doesn’t take as long as option 2, but is still slow – but you’ll keep your saved games, photos, and so on)
- “Wireless Transfer (Limited Data)” – Just copy settings and licences to a new SD card in your New 3DS, then later redownload everything from the eShop (if you’ve lots of games, this will take forever, and you’ll lose your saved games, photos, etc.)
- “Copy via PC” – Reuse your 3DS SD card in your New 3DS – Nintendo refer to this as transferring via PC (super quick as only licences are transferred – nothing leaves the SD card!)
- We’re going to do the “Copy via PC” option where you reuse your SD card, as you’ve now got your MicroSD filled with all your stuff. So, choose that and follow all the instructions.
- Watch the Pikmin do their data transfer, and when they’re done, you’ll be told you can take the card out of your old 3DS and put it in your New 3DS. So turn off both 3DSes when prompted, take the MicroSD out of the adapter, and put it in the New 3DS.
- Power on the New 3DS and bask in its shiny glory, complete with all your stuff from your old 3DS.