Nintendo Switch.

Sometimes, you’re on the go and you need to recharge your Nintendo Switch’s battery, but you don’t have your dock with you. Whether you’re playing the Switch while charging or leaving it in Standby mode, here’s how you can charge in a pinch—and the best way to do it.

The Official Way to Recharge a Switch Without a Dock

The official Nintendo Switch AC Adapter.

Both the Switch and Switch Lite include an official Nintendo Switch AC Adapter in the box when you purchase them. Most people use this adapter to power the dock, which, in turn, powers the Switch. But you can also unplug the AC adapter from the dock and plug it directly into the Switch.

The official Nintendo Switch AC Adapter provides enough power to charge the Switch in the quickest, most efficient way. It also provides enough current to recharge the battery while you play, although the charging rate will be slower than letting the Switch recharge in Standby mode.

So, if you know you’ll be using your Switch on the go, either take the Nintendo Switch AC Adapter with you or buy a second one for travel. You could also try a third-party Switch AC adapter, like this one from AmazonBasics.

According to Nintendo, all models of the Switch console take about three hours to fully charge in Standby mode while using the official Nintendo Switch AC Adapter.

How to Charge a Nintendo Switch Using a USB Cable

Charging a Switch with a USB Cable.
Nyko, Apple

All models of Nintendo Switch use USB-C for the charging port on the bottom of the unit. So, in a pinch, you can charge it with any USB-C cable plugged into a power source, such as a tablet/smartphone charger, battery pack, PC, or USB hub. The speed at which the battery recharges (and whether it actually powers the Switch for play) varies wildly depending on the power source.

As far as cables go, any well-made USB-A-to-USB-C cable will work with a sufficient power source to charge the Switch. However, this method limits the maximum power to 7.5 watts due to the Switch’s design. That’s enough to play and charge simultaneously—but not at the fastest rate.

The Switch also supports a higher wattage charging mode that charges the battery much faster. However, it requires a USB-C-to-USB-C cable with a high-wattage power source (such as a MacBook Pro 61-watt USB-C charger) or a specially made Switch AC Adapter.

  • Minimum requirements to charge while playing: To have your Switch’s battery recharge, (even if slowly), while you play a game, you need a power source that can supply at least 5 volts and 1.5 amps (or 7.5 watts) of power. More amps are better for faster battery charging.
  • Minimum requirements to charge in Standby mode (without the dock): Nintendo doesn’t provide an official lower-limit of current needed for charging the Switch in Standby mode. From our own testing, it appears the Switch will recharge from a power source that can output as little as 5 volts at fractions of an amp (such as 400mA/0.4 A), but charging will be slow.

Generally, the more Amps you have available, the faster the Switch will charge. The ideal output for Standby charging from commonly available USB adapters (like those you’d find at a convenience store) is around 5 volts and 2 amps.

Every dedicated USB power adapter or battery pack should have a tiny label that lists its power output. It will say something like “Output: 5V/1A,” which means it can provide a maximum of 5 volts at 1 amp of current, or 5 watts of power. Those are the numbers you want.

The Technical Details About Nintendo Switch Charging

Charging the Nintendo Switch.

The technical details of how each Switch model receives power and charges in different modes go far beyond what most people need to know. If you’re interested in digging deeper, though, or want an optimum way to charge the Switch while playing, someone on Reddit made a complex chart that explores the various options. Informal studies have also been done on how much power the Switch consumes in different scenarios. Of course, since these studies aren’t official, you might want to take them with a grain of salt.

The bottom line? For best results, stick to the official Nintendo Switch AC Adapter. It provides the optimum amount of power to play and charge, and it works with both the Switch and Switch Lite. It’s not as portable as grabbing a USB cable and hoping for a good power supply on the run. Still, you’ll know Nintendo’s official adapter can handle anything the Switch throws at it.

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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