Animal Crossing: New Horizons — How to use the Island Backup & Restoration Service

Acnh Packing Up
Acnh Packing Up (Image credit: iMore)

One of the worst things that can happen to you is having your expensive Nintendo Switch console get lost, broken, or stolen. Since Animal Crossing: New Horizons doesn't save data to the backup cloud like other Switch games, if an incident were to occur, you might lose all those hundreds of hours you put into your island unless you already manually enabled the Island Backup service. Once that safeguard is in place, players can use this service to transfer their save data to a new Nintendo Switch once they've acquired one.

Remember, Nintendo states that this service is only intended if your Switch gets seriuosly damaged or lost. Without further ado, here's how to use the Island Backup & Restoration Service.

In order to take advantage of the Island Backup & Restoration Service, players must have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership and a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

How to enable backups

While the ability to backup games was added with the version 1.4.0 update, players must still enable the backup feature in order to take advantage of this service. Here's how to do it.

  1. Start the game from your Nintendo Switch's main menu.
  2. While on the title screen, press the - button.Source: iMore

Acnh Island Backup Restoration Service Main Switch Menu (Image credit: iMore)

Acnh Island Backup Restoration Service Title Screen (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tom Nook will appear. Select Island backup.
  2. Select Enable island backup.Source: iMore

Acnh Island Backup Restoration Service Island Backup (Image credit: iMore)

Acnh Island Backup Restoration Service Enable Island Backup (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tom Nook will explain a few things. When he's done talking select Yep! Enable, please!
  2. The most recent backup timestamp will appear in the bottom left of the Animal Crossing:New Horizons main menu.Source: iMore

Acnh Island Backup Restoration Service Yep Enable Please (Image credit: iMore)

Acnh Island Backup Restoration Service Timestamp (Image credit: iMore)

From now on, your game file will be backed up whenever the game isn't being played (as long as you are connected to the internet, of course). So, be sure to turn the game off every once in a while to make sure your most recent island changes get stored.

How to restore your game on a new Switch

Nintendo Logo

Nintendo Logo (Image credit: Nintendo)

Remember, this service is only to be used if your Switch gets severly damaged or stolen. Additionally, you must have already enabled Island Backup on your game before the original Switch got destroyed or went missing in order for this to work.

Instead of allowing you to restore the information from the console, you will need to contact the Nintendo Support Center. Tell them what happened and they should be able to help you get your game sorted out.

Additional information about the Restoration Service

Nintendo Switch

What to do if your Nintendo Switch won't charge step five: wait 30 seconds (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

What do I need in order to use the Island Backup & Restoration Service?

  • You need an active Nintendo Switch Online membership and a copy of the game. If you are missing either of those things, it will not work.

When can I restore my game data?

  • We've said this a lot, but it's very important. Players cannot use this service whenever they feel like it. It's reserved for severe circumstances where your Nintendo Switch console is lost, stolen, or broken beyond repair. If your Switch has gotten damaged, you will want to try and send it in to the Nintendo Support Center to see if they can fix it before trying the Restoration Service.

Can I choose when the game backs up the account?

  • You do not determine when the game decides to backup its content. New Horizons will automatically do this as long as no one is playing and it has access to the internet.

What about if multiple people are sharing an island?

  • If there are multiple people sharing an island then only player 1 needs to go through the backup process. Once that's done, all of the game data will be saved.

Will the game be restored to exactly where I left off?

  • It's possible that after using the Restoration Service, your game might not be as far along as you were when the Switch got lost or broken. However, the game data should hopefully be somewhat near where you last left off.

I'm backing up, backing up, backing up

I have put over 300 hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons and I would hate to see all my efforts lost due to some ridiculous incident. Make sure to backup your New Horizons data. Your future self might just thank you for what you've done.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.