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How To Restore Animal Crossing New Horizons Backup

4 min read

Earlier this year I wrote about my first impressions of the Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Throughout the summer it has grown to be enjoyed by the entire family on an almost daily basis. It’s a great game and fun to share with the family.

One of the big updates the game got was the ability to save your island to Nintendo’s cloud. This was a welcome feature as your island is the core of the game. All the users of the Switch play separately with their own game character but you all share one island together. Unique design but it’s what makes this game so great for multiple people using one Switch device. However, if you lose the Switch or it gets damaged you could lose your island and all your work and progress. That’s where the online backup becomes critical to protect your hours of playtime.

Unfortunately, Nintendo made it very difficult to recover from that backup. It’s so ridiculous that unless you read this post, the only way to actually recover is to call Nintendo Support to go through the steps. That’s what I did and this is not how it should work.

Nintendo intended this backup restore to be used in the event of a Switch being lost/stolen/damaged and a new replacement is being setup. The other scenario is if you sent in the Switch for repair and they wiped it clean. My scenario was slightly different. My little daughter, who has her own character to walk around the island, switched to my wife’s account and somehow got through the menu and deleted her character from the island. That delete process is too easy you just click through next next next in a menu, but it happened. She played far longer than any of us and had TONS of work lost. I wanted to see if I could restore the backup in hopes that it didn’t sync the delete and we could recover her charater.

Like many of my blog posts I suffered through the clunky, confusing steps and writing this to make it easy for you.

First, let’s talk about getting the backup enabled. There are a few prerequisites in order to set it up.

  • You need a Nintendo Online Account.
  • You need someone with Nintendo Online playing Animal Crossing with a character on the island.
  • You need the Switch to connect to the Internet in sleep mode.
  • The game must be updated to version 1.4 or later.
  • Then on the title screen go into settings and talk to Tom Nook to enable backups.

How to restore an Animal Crossing New Horizons backup:

  1. Because the Switch backup is intended for wiped devices you need to delete the saved game on the Switch first. Not uninstall the game, delete the Saved Data for the game. It’s scary if the backup doesn’t work but if you need to do this you are in a bad spot anyway. The backup won’t work if there’s a saved island on the device already.
  2. Turn the Switch on and with the same user that setup the backup start the game. Make sure you are connected to the Internet.
  3. When you see the black screen with the Switch logo in the bottom corner start hitting the minus button repeatedly.
  4. If the game loads to the two guys in the travel desk it didn’t work. Repeat steps 2 and 3.
    1. I had to do this about a dozen times to get it to kick in.
  5. If you do it correctly you will see a message to check for island data to restore.
  6. Check for data.
  7. If your backup worked you will see your island data. Select and restore it.

The backups are a single file and synchronized into it. There are not multiple save points unfortunately so whatever was the last successful save is what you get.

In my situation, the backup happened after the character was deleted and she lost everything and had to start over.

That’s it. No is sure why Nintendo made this process so clunky and not user ready at all but Nintendo has a history of making the greatest games but is still way behind on online capabilities.

I hope this helps if you need it.

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