Skullator x Code Donut

How to install Emunand on your Nintendo Switch: Play games online without being banned

About Me

What’s up everyone? It’s my first time writing a post here on Code Donut so I figured I should introduce myself first before diving into the Emunand tutorial. My name is Skullator and I’m mainly known for creating video tutorials over on YouTube. I had reached 37,000 subscribers on my channel but it’s recently been terminated for publishing too many Switch hacking videos. I’m hopeful I will be able to recover the channel soon, but until then I’m glad I’m still able to create tutorial content here instead!

What is Emunand? Why would I want to use it?

Those of you who weren’t around for the early days of the 3DS hacking scene may be a little overwhelmed by all this talk about Emunand. Emunand stands for emulated NAND, and basically you could think of it as having a second operating system for your console stored on an SD card. Once you have an Emunand setup on your system, you have a choice of which version of your system you want to boot into. Either the default stock internal NAND inside your Switch (Sysnand), or the emunand side of the device which is usually located on your microSD card.

Benefits of using Emunand

  • System settings and installed data are separate from Sysnand
  • Can have two different versions of the system firmware
  • Play games online from your clean Sysnand

For one thing, all system settings and installed data on your emunand is completely separate from your main system (Sysnand). You can also maintain your emunand and internal NAND on two totally different versions of the system firmware if you would like to.

In my opinion though, the main advantage that we gain by using emunand on a Nintendo switch is that it gives us the possibility to enjoy playing games online on our devices by keeping our internal NAND completely clean and free of all traces of custom firmware or other homebrew… While still being able to enjoy those things on our device after we boot into the emunand side of the system.

Many people who were early to install custom firmware and test homebrew on their Nintendo Switch found out the hard way that Nintendo keeps logs of basically all the activity you do on your device. They can see when you are running hacks on their devices, and if you do those sorts of things without protection when going online, you’ll receive a ban from their online services very quickly. The only real defense to avoid being banned at first was to keep your Switch permanently offline or in flight mode after you started running homebrew so that the telemetry could never get sent back to Nintendo.

Since that time, there have been some DNS solutions released which can help you block all connections to Nintendo while still being able to enable WIFI on your device. 90DNS or Stealth mode built into the SX OS custom firmware can help you achieve this. But using a DNS solution like this blocks ALL connections to Nintendo, which obviously makes enjoying your favorite games online impossible. And that’s where emunand can come in to play to help those of us with only a single Switch console enjoy playing games online again, while remaining unbanned.

Before you begin

A few things before getting started with emunand:

  • As of the time this guide was published, the only available emunand solution has been released by Team Xecuter. So you will need to be using SX OS custom firmware to be able to follow the steps shown in this tutorial.
  • The most effective way of staying unbanned is if you made a backup on your Nintendo Switch NAND storage BEFORE you ever began running homebrew or installing .nsp content onto your switch. Restoring from a clean NAND backup is a surefire way to roll back all of the telemetry kept on the Switch. If you don’t have a clean NAND backup from before you hacked your device, I will include some steps which will help give you the best chance of cleaning up your device before you take your system online, although nobody can guarantee all traces of homebrew will be removed from your system this way.
  • You should absolutely already have made at least one NAND backup of your system and have it stored in several locations on your computer / cloud storage. Keeping a NAND backup of your device is extremely important before doing advanced things like emunand to your device. This way if something goes wrong and you somehow soft brick your device, you’ll be able to restore from your NAND backup to get your console booting again. Seriously don’t ignore this warning, make sure you have made a NAND backup using either Hekate or the SX OS bootloader before getting started with emunand.
  • Once you have NAND backups stored on your computer, make sure you add them to a compressed zip file or other type of archive. If you have unused space on your switch systems 32gb internal memory, the compression software will be able to save you all of that space on your computer. As an example here is my clean rawnand.bin file which is usually 32GB in size, compressed down to just 1.5GB in storage. This is a great way to save space, especially if you plan on keeping multiple NAND backups!
  • It’s a good idea to also spend a few minutes backing up your most important games save data using your favorite save manager application. I recommend Checkpoint which does a great job with both backing up and restoring switch save game data. Keeping a back up of all your important save data and your NAND puts you in a very good position to recover from any mistakes you could potentially make in the future.

Installing Emunand

With those things out of the way, we can start by creating the Emunand. You will need to make sure you have 32gb of free space available on your microSD card, and also be sure to charge your system to 100% battery before you begin the process, as it can take up to an hour to complete.

Power your Nintendo Switch on into the Tegra RCM state, and then start the SX payload either from your computer / phone, or with a USB payload injection dongle such as the SX Pro. Make sure you hold the volume + button on your switch so that you are greeted by the Xecuter boot loader options.

On this screen, touch the options icon.
On the new screen, tap the emunand option on the left hand side, and then choose create emunand

You will then be given 3 options about which type of emunand you wish to create.

  1. Hidden partition on microSD card
  2. Files on microSD card
  3. Files on system storage

I would not recommend choosing the third system storage option, as it’s easily the most detectable version of emunand there is.
It’s up to you whether you want your microSD card to be partitioned or not. I would expect that the first partition option is the most safe and difficult for Nintendo to be able to detect from your system NAND. Personally I am going to be choosing the second “files on my microSD card” option, since I don’t want my SD card to be reformatted.

After that, choose continue to begin the emunand creation process. This process is quite slow, so make sure your battery is full, or connect it to the power cable while it’s working.

After emunand has been created, you can press the back button to return to the main Xecuter bootloader menu.

emunand

On the main screen now you’ll notice an orange “EmuNAND enabled” button above the “Boot custom FW” option. You can toggle this on and off, depending on if you want to start your custom firmware on system NAND or within the new emunand state. Obviously it’s recommended to leave this on, as from now on you’ll be running all of your homebrew and custom firmware within emunand.

Transfer content (Emutendo folder)

Now if you’re like me and you had plenty of .NSP content installed on your switch that required signature patches and custom firmware to be able to launch successfully (game back ups installed) then you’ll want to transfer all of this content so that it’s able to be recognized by your emunand.

This process is very simple, simply browse to your switch SD card, and then move everything from the sd:/Nintendo/ folder, into the folder sd:/Emutendo/
The Emutendo folder is where all content you install on emunand will be. It exists to help keep things separate between your sysnand and your emunand. Once you have moved all your data into this folder, you will be able to see it and launch it after booting from your new emunand.

So that’s it for creating emunand on your Switch, next let’s take a look at how to prepare your sysnand for safe online gameplay.

Preparing your Sysnand for safe online gameplay

Now that we have a working emunand, it’s time to prepare the internal NAND on our Nintendo Switch to make it as safe as possible to play games online without being banned.

If you’re like me and you had been running plenty of custom firmware & homebrew on your device before you set up emunand, we will first want to restore our system to as clean of a slate as possible in order to wipe out all of Nintendo’s log files and telemetry.

Hopefully you learned early on the importance of creating a clean NAND backup before you got started with homebrew, as this will give you the best starting point with the lowest chance of being banned. If you don’t have a clean NAND backup from before you started hacking on your switch, skip ahead to the next section instead.

For those of you who do have a clean NAND backup, let’s go ahead and restore it on our Switch now.

You can use either the Hekate payload, or the Xecuter bootloader to restore a NAND backup to your devices internal memory.

Restoring a NAND backup with Xecuters Bootloader

Make sure you have placed your clean rawnand.bin file in your sd:\sxos\backup folder.
You should also place your boot0.bin and boot1.bin files here too if you’ll be restoring to a different version of the firmware than the one you have currently installed.

Power your Nintendo Switch on into the tegra RCM state, and then start the SX payload either from your computer \ phone, or with a USB payload injection dongle. Make sure you hold the volume + button on your switch so that you are greeted by the Xecuter boot loader options.

Touch the options menu again, and this time we will be choosing the NAND option down the left hand side. From here, select the ‘Restore NAND’ button

The on the next screen, choose continue. This will begin the process of restoring your internal NAND.

restore nand switch
With that process complete, you may want to enable AutoRCM mode on your device again if you are maintaining an eFuse count. Or you can keep AutoRCM mode disabled to perhaps slightly reduce the risk of being banned. Then you can go ahead and power off your switch or boot into stock firmware. Check and make sure the NAND restoration was completed successfully.

Restoring a NAND backup with Hekate

You will need to make sure you have your rawnand.bin file in the sd:\backup\lettersnumbers\restore\ folder. You should also place your boot0.bin and boot1.bin files here too if you’ll be restoring to a different version of the firmware than the one you have currently installed.

Boot your Switch into the tegra RCM state, and go ahead and start the latest version of the Hekate payload. When Hekate has started, press the volume – button twice to select ‘Tools’ then press the power button to continue.

Next press the – button to highlight ‘Restore’ then press the power button to continue again

Next choose ‘Restore eMMC RAW GPP’ and press the power button again.

You’ll see a warning screen letting you know this is a dangerous procedure, after 10 seconds you can press power to begin the process of verifying and restoring your NAND backup. This takes a long time to complete, so again make sure your battery doesn’t run out before completion.

Optionally when this is complete, if you have restored a different version of the firmware than you had previously installed, you may also need to restore your Boot0 & Boot1 files.
You can do this by choosing ‘Restore eMMC BOOT0/1’ on the earlier screen.

With that process complete, you may want to enable AutoRCM mode on your device again if you are maintaining an eFuse count. Or you can keep AutoRCM mode disabled to perhaps slightly reduce the risk of being banned. Then you can go ahead and power off your switch or boot into stock firmware. Check and make sure the NAND restoration was completed successfully.

Enjoy your online gaming!

After you have restored your clean NAND backup to the internal sysNAND and have created your emunand on your microSD card, you’ll now be able to enjoy the best of both worlds on your device.
Just be sure to keep your emunand permanently blocking Nintendo’s servers (or totally offline) Then you can run all the .nsp & homebrew content you like without needing to worry about detection.
On your sysNAND side of the system, feel free to link your NNID and start using Nintendo’s online services to play your games online. Check out the lower section of this guide for some notes on keeping your chances of being banned as low as possible.

What should I do if I have no clean NAND backup?

If you never made a clean NAND backup before you got started running homebrew, .XCI files or .NSP content, it might be impossible to totally clean all traces of homebrew from your system.
You do still have some options however to give yourself the best chance possible of avoiding being banned during online gameplay, which I will go over here in this section.

If you insist on playing games online on your switch, these are the steps I would suggest you take:

Power off your Nintendo Switch, then hold down both the volume + and – buttons, keep holding them and then press and hold the power button on your switch for around 5 seconds.
After holding the buttons down for a while, you should see the Nintendo recovery mode options.

On this screen, I would suggest you choose ‘Restore Factory Settings’ – which will then supposedly delete all data from your Switch system memory. It is unknown if this deletes all the systems log files and telemetry, but I expect it’s the best chance you have right now without a clean NAND backup.

If you have save data on the system which you want to use when playing online, you could either choose the ‘Restore factory settings without deleting save data’ option, or you could restore the save data later using a save manager application like checkpoint from the homebrew menu.
I would recommend using the restore factory settings option to be sure that more data is deleted from your device. You could then restore your save data on emunand, and copy paste the data from your ‘Emutendo’ folder into your ‘Nintendo’ folder to get the saved games into your sysNAND.

Once the factory restore is complete, your system is as clean as it’s ever going to be. Go ahead and start gaming online from your sysNAND, and good luck!

Some thoughts on likelihood of Bans

To have the lowest % chance of getting banned on your switch using the above methods, two main choices come to mind which I feel are worth discussing a little.

AutoRCM mode

AutoRCM helps us not need to use the RCM jig to launch emunand every time we boot, but the way it achieves this is by making some slight changes to NAND. Technically, it would be possible for Nintendo to push out an update which starts detecting users playing online with AutoRCM mode enabled and banning them for modifying their system this way, if they are not already capable of noticing autoRCM mode in their existing logging and telemetry.

Now I have no way of knowing if this will ever happen, I’m just saying it’s a possibility worth considering for those who really want to remain unbanned.
Personally, I need to use AutoRCM right now to maintain my systems eFuse count, so I’m going to leave it on and just accept I might be introducing a higher risk with this setting. For those of you that don’t care about your fuse count, or using the RCM jig, you may want to disable AutoRCM mode to reduce your ban% rate.

Partition Emunand vs Files on SD card

Remember earlier when we had the choice of setting up emunand either as files on the SD card, or on a separate partition?
This was actually something else I was thinking about for a while. See it’s also highly possible that Nintendo is able to start scanning everyone’s microSD storage for certain folder names like ‘sxos’ – ‘atmosphere’ – ’emutendo’ – ‘switch’

These are common folders used by people who run CFW and homebrew on their devices. Therefore, it would be a somewhat effective way of catching these types of users and banning them.

For a long time I was thinking it would be smart to use a separate microSD card to keep your emunand on, or perhaps to just make sure you remove your microSD card at all times when booting into Sysnand before playing games online.

However, now that Xecuter has released the “Hidden partition on microSD card” option of installing emunand this should no longer be an issue. Users who choose to set up their emunand in this way should be helping keep their homebrew folders hidden from Nintendo when connected to the network.

Again, I am choosing to just use files on SD option, I guess because I am a little lazy, and because I’m not too concerned if my Switch gets banned as I wouldn’t mind owning a second switch anyway.

But this is definitely something to consider for people wanting to remain unbanned again, I would suggest choosing “Hidden partition on microSD card” option if that is your goal.

Conclusion

Well done on making it this far! I’ll be using the above methods to enjoy some Splatoon2 online on my Switch again.

I’ve heard from a number of people using this method who have been playing many games online, and have remained unbanned so far. I’ll be sure to update this post if I’m ever banned from online gameplay.

I hope you found this Emunand tutorial useful!
Don’t get cooked, stay off the hook!

splatton

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