This paper proposes a data projection method (DPM) to detect a mode switching and recognize the current mode in a switching system. The main feature of this method is that the precise knowledge of the system model, i.e., the parameter values, is not needed. One direct application of this technique is fault detection and identification (FDI) when a fault produces a change in the system dynamics. Mode detection and recognition correspond to fault detection and identification, and switching time estimation to fault occurrence time estimation. The general principle of the DPM is to generate mode indicators, namely, residuals, using matrix projection techniques, where matrices are composed of input and output measured data. The DPM is presented in detail, and properties of switching detectability (fault detectability) and discernability between modes (fault identifiability) are characterized and discussed. The great advantage of this method, compared with other techniques in the literature, is that it does not need the model parameter values and thus can be applied to systems of the same type without identifying their parameters. This is particularly interesting in the design of generic embedded fault diagnosis algorithms.