My Custom (Nintendo) Switch

2020-02-09 12:56 - Gaming

I got a Nintendo switch console just under two years ago. I've been loving it. I've also got a huge collection of other video game consoles, and I've been slowly gathering second spare units as well: nothing lasts forever, and I'd hate to find some time down the road that my (say) Super Nintendo has gone bad and it's really hard to find another replacement.

The extra detail with the Switch is that the original units have a built-in hardware vulnerability which makes them trivially easy to hack and thus run anything you desire. I like to mod all my consoles to run whatever I choose, whenever I can. But these early Switch units are becoming more rare and expensive. I watched eBay for a while and finally caught one at the very end of December.

The front view of my custom Nintendo Switch. The backview of my custom Nintendo Switch.

I knew then that it was used with some minor cosmetic issues. Once I got it in my hands they were even a bit more obvious, so I decided to replace some parts to make it new and pretty again. I replaced the plastic shell with this pictured transparent green version. I'm really happy with it. I also took the time to paint the labels on the buttons in white. The cheap kit came with only nearly invisible embossing on the buttons. That was hard effort but well worth it. I elected to not install the metal plate across the main unit. It serves a minor role in heat dissipation, but I believe things will be fine without it, and it makes the transparent back look extra awesome.

While I had it open anyway, I also installed an internal "RCMX86" chip, which makes the unit automatically boot up in completely open and hackable mode. (Otherwise you need to plug something, like the RCM Loader visible in some of these pictures, in each time you turn it on.)

Installing the mod wires. Continuing to install the mod, tweaking the final wires. RCMX86 mod chip completely installed.

Installing this mod was quite challenging! Look closely next to the mod chip in the final picture and you'll see some tiny gold circles (a group of four is somewhat clear). Those are about one millimeter across. A couple of the connections were to "easy" points like those. Others were to significantly smaller points. Some of the super tiny rectangles you can see on the board are resistors and capacitors. The small ones are probably "0201" or 0.02 by 0.01 inches, 0.6 by 0.3 millimeters -- and the pads on either size are a fraction of that! Somehow I managed to get everything connected and functional, and didn't destroy it along the way!

The worst thing that happened was a slip during re-assembly damaging one of the buttons' (ZL) contacts. It's still functional, but takes a little more force than normal and doesn't "click" like it should. A replacement part is on the way.

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