How To Upgrade 3DS Storage: MicroSD Transfer, Compatibility And More

The Nintendo eShop is closing very soon for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. You won’t be able to buy any more digital games after the closure, but you will still be able to download your old games. You’re likely going to want to upgrade over the default storage of the system to hold more games at once, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you upgrade the storage of your 3DS! 

The process is actually very simple, but you need to make sure you follow the instructions carefully. There are also some differences for each system, which we’ll be covering in detail to make sure you do it right. Remember to be careful with your hardware while following the guide.

1. Identify your 3DS

3DS Variants
Different 3DS variants have different ways of accessing the SD card, and the types of SD they use.

This guide will involve taking out the SD or MicroSD in your system, so you’ll need to know both where to find it and what size card to use. These differ per system, so read closely to identify your own.

  • 3DS: these systems use SD cards (or MicroSD cards inside an adapter), and you can find the SD slot on the left side of your system under the cover.
  • 3DS XL and 2DS: these systems use SD cards (or MicroSD cards inside an adapter), and you can find the SD slot on the right side of your system under the cover.
  • New 3DS and New 3DS XL: these systems use MicroSD cards only, and you can find the MicroSD slot inside the back of the system, using an #0 cross-head screwdriver
  • New 2DS XL: these systems use MicroSD cards only, and you can find the MicroSD slot on the bottom side of your system under the cover.

2. Choose your upgrade

New Nintendo 3DS XL MicroSD
Most 3DS systems have a dedicated SD cover, but the New 3DS and New 3DS XL require a screwdriver. (image: Blaine Locklair on YouTube)

Whichever card you’re going to be using, all 3DS and 2DS systems officially support a maximum storage of 32GB on SDHC and MicroSDHC cards. That doesn’t mean you can’t go bigger though. We will be helping you get even larger sizes later in the guide, but note that this is not officially supported by Nintendo.

If you’re playing it safe like me but want the biggest you can get, then buy either a 32GB SDHC or MicroSDHC card, depending on your system. The ‘class’ of the SD card isn’t a huge deal on older 3DS systems, but you will want a higher class card on New 3DS and New 2DS XL consoles. Class 10 is biggest, and thankfully the standard on most big name SDHC and MicroSDHC cards nowadays. Reputable brands include SanDisk and Samsung.

3. Prepare for transfer

New 2DS XL
You’ll need to insert your SD or MicroSD into a computer for the upgrade. (image: iFixit on YouTube)

You will need access to a PC or MacBook, with a means of inserting the storage card into the computer. If you don’t have an SD card slot in your computer, you can buy USB and USB-C adapters online instead.

If you’ve got a New 3DS or New 3DS XL, you’ll need a #0 cross-head screwdriver to get into your system. The Philips #0 screwdriver isn’t a hugely common one, but can be picked up cheaply from any nearby hardware stores.

4. Making the transfer (up to 32GB)

Animal Crossing New Leaf
Some of the most popular games on the 3DS take up a lot of storage.

Once you’ve followed the crucial first three steps, you’re ready to get to work. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Remove the SD card from the 3DS console (powered off, of course), and insert it into your PC.
  2. From your file explorer window, copy the entire contents of the SD card and paste it into a safe backup folder on your PC.
  3. Safely eject this SD card from your PC, and insert the new upgraded SD into the PC.
  4. You should format the card before you use it. This will erase everything on the card.
    On Windows, right-click the new SD card, select ‘Format’, then select the FAT32 format and click ‘Start’, then ‘OK’.
    On Mac, open Disk Utility, select ‘Erase’, click ‘MS-DOS (FAT)’ in the Format options and click ‘Erase’, then ‘Done’. 
  5. With your newly formatted SD card, drag over or paste all the contents of your old 3DS SD card folder.
  6. Safely eject the new SD card, and put it back into your system.

That’s it! You should then have all your past contents on your 3DS, as well as much more storage space. If anything goes wrong, insert the old card back into the 3DS and troubleshoot online or in the comments below.

5. Upgrades over 32GB

Pokemon Omega Ruby Alpha Sapphire Kyogre Groudon
The 3DS can reach some monstrous storage levels, but it’s not officially supported by Nintendo.

SD and MicroSD cards over 32GB are formatted as exFAT, which is not supported on 3DS systems by default. What you can do from here is format the exFAT card into FAT32, making it compatible with the 3DS and bumping up the storage.

The bigger your storage gets, the more you may run into slowdown and bugs. We don’t want to be responsible for any of those issues, so you’ll need to search online to find other guides on how to do this, and if you’re comfortable with any potential risks. Here’s a handy video on YouTube to get you started.

We hope this guide was able to help you upgrade your 3DS system storage. We’ve got additional 3DS coverage to check out next, such as the exclusive games you need to pick up, or our guide on adding funds to your eShop account. Let us know in the comments below what guides you’d like to see next, and keep your eyes on GameLuster for more gaming news.

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