How to Connect the Nintendo Switch to Your Laptop

Use your laptop to play games with the Switch console

The Nintendo Switch officially supports gameplay on its own screen in handheld mode and on a connected TV screen when docked, but these aren't the only options. You can connect the Switch to a laptop and play games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Animal Crossing New Horizons on your computer. But it takes a bit of work. We show you how to do it. below.

The instructions in this guide apply to the original Nintendo Switch console and not the Switch Lite.

What's Needed to Connect Switch to a Laptop

To view Nintendo Switch gameplay on a laptop, you need to buy an HDMI video capture card. This is necessary because laptop models generally don’t come with support for HDMI In functionality.

You may recall using an HDMI connection to mirror your computer’s screen on a monitor or TV screen. This is an HDMI Out port and can’t be used for importing other media onto your laptop’s screen.

Any capture card can be used for this process as long as it has a USB-C connection and an HDMI In port. There are several great capture cards to choose from, but Elgato cards are generally considered the best option by gamers due to their affordability, build quality, and ease of use.

For these instructions, we use an Elgato HD60 HDMI capture card and the free Elgato Game Capture HD software. The capture card can be purchased from Amazon while the software can be downloaded for free from the official Elgato website.

If you’re using another capture card to connect your Switch to your laptop, the steps should be almost identical. Similarly, most game capture software works in the same way, so if you have another program you prefer to use, you can use that instead of Game Capture HD.

How to Connect Nintendo Switch to a Laptop

To play your Nintendo Switch on your laptop, you basically use your laptop’s monitor as a TV screen, so you can leave your Nintendo Switch in its dock for the entirety of this setup process.

  1. Disconnect the Nintendo Switch’s HDMI cable from your TV.

  2. Plug the Nintendo Switch’s HDMI cable into the HDMI In port on your Elgato HD60 HDMI capture card.

    This entire process can be power intensive, so it’s a good idea to plug both your laptop and Nintendo Switch dock into a power source.

  3. On your laptop, open Game Capture HD.

    Elgato Game Capture HD on Windows 10
  4. Turn your Nintendo Switch console on by pressing the Home button on any connected controller.

  5. Connect the USB cable that came with the Elgato HD60 to the capture card and your laptop.

  6. After a few seconds, you should see your Nintendo Switch home screen within Game Capture HD.

    Nintendo Switch in Elgato Game Capture HD on Windows 10.

    If Elgato’s Game Capture HD software doesn't detect the Nintendo Switch, ensure the HDMI cable is plugged into the capture card’s In port and not the Out port. It should be on the same side as the USB cable.

  7. Select the fullscreen icon in the top-right corner of Game Capture HD. The program should fill the entire screen.

    Fullscreen icon in Game Capture HD
  8. Be careful not to touch your mouse or keyboard. The Nintendo Switch footage should automatically expand to fill the entire screen by itself. You can now play your Nintendo Switch games on your laptop just as you would on a TV.

    Nintendo Switch playing on a Windows 10 laptop screen.

    This same technique can be used for viewing media from any other device that has an HDMI cable, such as a Blu-ray player or Xbox One console.

Another Way to Play Nintendo Switch Games on Laptop

If you don’t have an HDMI capture card and can’t afford to buy one, a solid alternative is to play the PC versions of your favorite Nintendo Switch games on your laptop.

With the exception of first-party franchises such as Super Mario, Animal Crossing, and Pokemon, many of the video games available on the Nintendo Switch are also available to buy from the Microsoft Store app store on Windows 10, Epic Games, or Steam. Some popular online games, such as Minecraft and Fortnite, even support cross-save between devices. That means you can continue a game you started on your Nintendo Switch on your laptop, then carry all of that progress back over to your Switch when you’re ready.

If you find yourself buying console games on PC on a regular basis and you have an Xbox One console, you may want to check out Xbox Play Anywhere titles. These let you buy the console and PC versions of the game for the price of a single game.

Many Nintendo Switch controllers are also compatible with a laptop or desktop computer so you won’t need to learn new controls for the most part either.