If you actually read your Nintendo Switch instruction manual before diving into Breath of the Wild, you may remember that it encouraged you to charge the system once every six months, even if you weren’t using it. Like a lot of good tech advice, it bears repeating, as Nintendo’s customer service reps have just reminded us. If your last big Switch project was Animal Crossing: New Horizons back in March, it’s time to plug your console in for a while, or else risk damaging its fragile battery.
While “charge your Switch every six months” is not new advice, our latest admonition comes from Nintendo’s Japanese customer service account on Twitter. To paraphrase the tweet, run through Google Translate, Nintendo urged customers to charge their Switches at least once every six months. Failure to do so could render the system “unchargeable.”
ゲーム機に内蔵されているバッテリーは、あまり長い間、充電も使用もしていない状態が続くと、充電できなくなることがあります。半年に一度は充電してあげてください。 pic.twitter.com/Je8QNH5SNTSeptember 28, 2020
To recap some basic chemistry, batteries generate charge through an electrochemical reaction. While using the battery drains power quickly, batteries on standby still bleed power, albeit much more slowly. Left on their own for too long, batteries can lose the minimum charge required to kickstart their chemical reactions, meaning you’ll probably have to replace it. And replacing Switch batteries is a pain, even for tech-savvy gamers.
Speaking from personal experience, you should take Nintendo’s warning seriously. Even having not charged my Switch for a few weeks was enough to completely destroy its battery, and Nintendo was profoundly unhelpful when it came time to get the console fixed. Repairs are expensive, and you’ll almost certainly lose all your save files. Furthermore, the Nintendo Switch’s battery is extremely delicate, even by portable gadget standards. The fewer chances you take with it, the better.
If you tend to use your Switch just for big Nintendo releases and leave it dormant in-between, your best bet may be to keep it plugged into the dock when it’s not in use. There’s some debate as to whether or not this could weaken the battery over time, but generally, modern lithium-ion batteries don’t overcharge the same way that old nickel-cadmium ones did, so you can probably leave your Switch in its dock for long periods without any ill effects. And even then — better a weakened battery than a totally dead one.
It’s worth noting that this warning goes for pretty much any gadget you own, so if you’ve got an old handheld console sitting in a box somewhere, it’s probably time to dig it up and plug it in for a few hours. Even if your ultimate plan is to get rid of it, no one will want to buy a bricked gadget.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.