Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hack your Wii, even if you've updated to 4.3u

There's quite a few 'how to' articles floating around the net on how to 'hack' your Wii.  There's even a few youtube "how to" videos.  But where a number of them seem to fall short are on details.  Seems like you are inevitably presented a question in the process that the article doesn't mention.  Or the article says to do X after Y happens..... but you never see Y happen.

Let me give you a little background so that you can understand a bit of what I'm explaining how to do.  But before that, you must be forewarned...


If you're unfamiliar with just what it means to 'brick' something.  It means exactly that.  One second, you have a functioning game console, cell phone, computer, etc.  But then due to your tinkering with it... you now have something that is no more useful than a paperweight, boat anchor, or brick.  I've performed this hack a couple of times on three different Wii's with success.  People have done it thousands of times the world over.  But that doesn't mean that something might not go wrong when you do it, leaving you with a bright shiny white piece of junk.

Now the Wii is designed so that it will only run 'approved' programs.  That is, the kind you buy in a store or download from Nintendo.  The first thing we'll have to do is 'soften' the Wii to allow us to install a custom channel called the "Homebrew Channel"  (HBC).  Once the Homebrew Channel is installed, we can use it to run 'unofficial' software.  This unofficial software can be anything from DVD players, to custom built games, to emulators for all your old favorite gaming consoles like NES, SNES, N64, Atari 2600, etc.

The part I'm focusing on today is the USB Loader GX.  This wonderful piece of software will allow you to connect an external USB Hard Drive to your Wii, backup all of your games onto the hard drive, and run them from there.  Thus allowing you to avoid having to buy a third copy of Mario Kart just because one of your kids decided to sand down the floor with it.

What You'll Need:

  • SD Memory Card - 2GB or less formatted to FAT
  • SD card reader on your PC
  • External USB Hard Drive - I recommend a 2.5" notebook type that can be powered from the second USB port on your Wii.  160GB or so should be sufficient depending on how many games you have
  • A Super Smash Brothers Brawl disc (SSB) - chances are someone you know has it
  • A Wii at version 4.3u that is connected to the internet.
  • Various downloaded files which I'll point out as I get to them.
First: Verify your system menu version and turn off updates

The latest Wii update was pushed out specifically to break the current batch of hacks (usually the case).  Guess what, it worked.  For a little while anyway.  So this set of instructions is focused on people like me who inadvertently let their Wii update to the latest system version, which at the moment is 4.3u.  If you happen to still be at one of the previous versions, there are already a number of articles out there that will walk you through what you need to do.  Most of my content is based on their instructions and tweaked.  You can verify your system version by going to your Wii system menu (configuration) and look in the top right corner.

If you are at version 4.3u you'll want to make sure your Wii stays at that version.  One of your configuration options is for "Wii Connect 24".  Turn it off.  As a general rule, updates break hacks.  Now if you rely on a lot of online Nintendo store purchases, you may want to rethink this effort.  A way that Nintendo, and Sony, both push people from hacks is to make it so that you have to be running their latest system version in order to access their 'stores'.

Second: Soften the defenses and install Homebrew Channel

Use your PC to format your SD card with a FAT file system.

If you don't own SSB or do but don't have or care about custom arenas, you can skip to the next paragraph.  If you own SSB and have designed custom arenas, and want to save them, you'll need to take this extra step. Basically you want to have those arenas copied off the Wii and onto the SD card, you can do this within the game.  Then pop the SD back in your PC, and copy the full contents off to a temp directory so that you can restore them later.  Delete everything on the card once done.

We need to setup to perform the Smash Stack hack.  That link has a nice explanation along with a video showing what to expect.

Fire up SSB (if the game asks about creating a save game file, tell it yes).

Go to the 'stage builder' under 'the vault'.  Delete all the custom arenas, including any demo ones that you might have.  Shut it back down.

Go back to your PC, go to the Smash Stack hack page and look for the download link on the right hand side of the page.  Your going to extract the downloaded zip file, with folder structures, directly onto your SD card.  This will result in a folder called 'private' with a bunch of subfolders and ultimately a .bin file.

At this point you'll also need the HackMii installer.  Their main page can be found here, and their download page here.  When you open this zip file, there's really only one part you need out of it.  In there you'll see a 'boot.elf' file.  You'll want to copy this into the root directory of your SD card.

Put the SD card in your Wii.  Fire up SSB and go to the 'stage builder' once more.  At this point, the Wii will look on your SD card and try to load the hack file you put there because it looks like a saved custom stage.  And with that, BAM, we're in!  You should see something like the screen shot here:

LOL - sorry, couldn't resist.  Stumbled upon this and it just freaked me out.  There's something way wrong with Ron Jeremy dressed as a children's video game character.

Anyway, after continuing, you should see this:

Go ahead and continue (A button..... unless you wanna turn back... there's still time ;)

You're going to be selecting the option to 'install the homebrew channel".

last chance to turn back.............

Good, you continued....

Now select Exit

 If you have your Wii connected to the internet (you will need connectivity to finish all this), you may be prompted to perform an update to the Homebrew Channel.  You will need to do this to complete the hack.  A Homebrew update will walk you back through some of the steps above.

This will launch you into the Homebrew Channel (your home screen will likely look different, as I already have other apps installed - yours should be blank until we put some apps on your SD card). 

Press the 'home' button on your controller and select "exit to system menu".  Exiting out to the Wii home screen, you should now see the Homebrew channel listed and ready to run.

And you're done.  You can remove Super Smash Bros.  We're done with it as well.  Turn off your Wii.  Pop your SD card out and and back in your PC with it.

Third: Enter hardware access modes that will let us do what we want and remove roadblocks

Now that we have an environment to run whatever software we'd like (the Homebrew Channel), we can start putting bigger steps in place.

The Wii operating systems are referred to as an IOS.  Apparently the Wii has quite a few IOS' that it runs depending on what sort of game / program it's trying to load.  The Wii Brew wiki has an interesting list of them here.

The next thing to download a program called dopMii.  You'll want to go to the download section and download the latest version (for me it was v14.5 wiiBrew edition).  Extract the contents of the zip file, again with folder structures.  The contents of the DOP-Mii v14.5 folder should have a folder called apps and one called config. Copy both of them over to the root directory of your SD card.  You'll notice that the apps folder has a folder within called DOP-Mii.  The apps folder contains all applications that the Homebrew Channel will list as available apps to load.

You'll need to install a friendly version of IOS36... called IOS236.  Some info on it is here and here. And you can find a download link for it here.  Unzip the file (keeping the folder structure) and copy the folder to the 'apps' folder of your SD card.

Pop the SD back into your Wii.  Run the HBC, and from there, launch the IOS236 Install program.

Press 1 to start the application

Then select where to get the IOS236 file from.  You want to select to load the IOS from NUS (internet)

Press A to start the install.

Then option 2, if you have no need to run pirated games.... honestly, in all likelihood, you don't need to worry about this.... select 1.

and you're done... hit any button to continue back to the HBC menu.

Now for the next step, launch the DOP-Mii program from HBC.

Press A to continue.... You're going to need to select the IOS: 36 option for which IOS you'd like to use.  At this point, you may (hopefully) will get an option to use something called "AHBPROT"... Basically this is a Nintendo level hardware access mode that will allow the install to proceed with out much fuss.  It will take off doing all sorts of stuff (some may fail as in my screenshot).  

Press "A" to continue.  You'll come up to the following menu.

We have one more thing to do here.  In an effort to head off exactly what you're doing, Nintendo has put place holder IOS' in the locations that you're going to want to put your own IOS.  In particular IOS222 and IOS249.  These are the ones that the USB Loader GX program will need to run properly.  So we'll use DOP-Mii to remove those.

Select the "IOS, BC, MIOS" menu option to bring you to the following screen.  If you've accidentally exited dopMii, you'll have to start the whole dopMii step over from the start, loading it from the Homebrew channel.

Use the arrows to change the selected "Title" to IOS222 and IOS249.  Each of those IOS's should list as seen above... that the version is a 'STUB'.  This means that Nintendo has put it in the way, because they know that we'll want to use those slots for ourselves.... so we need to remove them.  With each of the IOS's selected (222 & 249) press the "-" button to perform an uninstall.  Once deleted you should see this:

Be sure to repeat for both IOS's 222 & 249.  Press the 'home' button and return to the Homebrew Channel.

Fourth: Install a custom IOS that will let us run our USB loader (cIOS249)

We'll be installing a cIOS.. (custom IOS), there's a pretty good page here that explains how all these IOS's relate to each other, and why we need a custom one, specifically at IOS249.  Shutdown your Wii, and put the SD card back into your PC.

Go to this link here and download the cIOS38r17 installer.  Unzip it keeping it's folder structure intact... and copy the cIOS38r17-Installer folder into the apps folder on your SD card.  Put the card back into your Wii, fire it up, and return to the Homebrew channel.

Load the cIOS installer.. and you'll be greeted by this screen.

Change the selected IOS version to use during installation to "IOS236".. this is the special IOS that we installed earlier.  Press A to continue.

When presented with this screen, change the 'installation mode' to "Network Installation" and press A to continue.  If you get a network error... simply try again.

A successful cIOS249 completion should look like what's above.

With that, all the underlying hacking pieces are in place.  Shutdown the Wii, remove the SD card, and head back to your PC.

Fifth: Prepare your USB drive

Take your USB drive and plug it into your PC.  If windows pops up and wants to do anything with it, tell it NO.

Head to this link for the Wii File System Manager (WBFS Manager).  Download their latest version, at this time it's WBFSManager 3.0.1 RTW x86.  And install it on your PC.  Run the WBFS manager, make sure you have the proper drive selected!  Then click "Format".  If it's a new and completely blank hard drive, you may need to mount it from Windows Disk Management to give it a drive letter.  Just remember to not allow Windows to do any initializing or formatting of the drive.

You'll get a warning about the format action.  Click yes, and then a completion message.

Now your USB drive is ready for use with your Wii.

Sixth: Install the USB loader onto our SD card

Now for the 'fun' parts.  The app we're going to use to load our backed up games off of the USB drive is called USB GX Loader.  The main site is here, and the download page is here.  A link to all the .DOL files is here.  The DOL file is essentially the application file that will run under the Homebrew channel.  Download the latest DOL file (currently r938.dol, if you have trouble with the latest... you can always try an older one, I've been using r866), rename it to "boot.dol".  Create a folder under the 'apps' folder on your SD card called usbloader_gx (it must be that exact name for the last step to work properly) and put the boot.dol file in there.

Head back to your Wii.  Connect the USB drive to the back USB ports on your Wii.  Pop the SD back into your Wii.  Launch the HBC, and you should see a USB Loader GX application.  Load it.....If all goes well, you should see this:

Well, mostly.... yours won't have any games on it.  But never fear... all you need to do is pop a disc in, and the USB loader will ask you if you want to back it up to the USB drive.  Go ahead and test it out with at least one disc.  Back it up, and run it from the USB drive.  If all goes well, you're essentially done.

If the USB loader program is complaining about having trouble with a 'slow USB drive'.  You may need to unplug the drive... give it a second, and plug it back in.  If the drive isn't already spun up, this can happen.

However..............  If you're like me, you're not comfortable with the kids having to launch the HBC and poking around in there.  So there's one more step that will put the USB loader as it's own channel, loadable from the main Wii home screen.  Power down the Wii, and return to your PC with the SD card.

Last: Add the USB loader to your Wii's home menu

Go here and download the v1.4 WAD Manager... Inside the zip file, you'll find a .dol file.  Simply create a folder on the SD card under apps called wad_manager.  Copy the .dol file into there.

Go to this link and download the USB_Loader_GX-UNEO_Forwarder_16.06.09.rar file from one of the two sources listed.  Open the RAR archive, and copy ONLY the


folders into the root directory of your SD card.  The wad folder contains a file that the WAD manager will use.

Pop it back into the Wii, launch HBC and load the WAD Manager.

As usual, press A to continue.

Here, we will again make use of that specialized IOS236 as the platform for installing other functions.

Tell the WAD Manager to look on the SD card for any WAD files that we'd like to use... like the one we copied over earlier.   Next we see a list of any WAD files found on the SD card... there should be only one.

With the proper WAD file selected, we can select the action to perform: Install WAD.

With the install completed, continue and exit out to the HBC, and then out to the Wii main menu.

Now we should see a new channel in the lineup.  The USB Loader GX, ready to go.

Do a quick test load from the main menu.

If all went well, you should find yourself back in the USB Loader.... waiting for you to feed it the rest of your game discs.

Let me know how it goes.... like I mentioned at the start, there seems to be quite a lot of variations on hardware out there, depending on when/where you bought your Wii.  If it flakes out, let me know.  I'd like to think there's one catch all procedure for everybody.  But based on what I've seen, I seriously doubt it.  The best you can hope for is a set of instructions that gets you 99% there.  And hopefully enough info on forum posts and blogs like this that can help you figure out that last 1%.

enjoy ;)


  1. Great how-to, very well layed out. Hope to follow this guide when I get a chance, I have a 3 year old going on 4 my game discs will be doomed!, haha...any chance of a follow up, I see updates to wad manager, USB loader GX, as well a new cios rev21 got released, havnt modded my Wii yet but should I get the updated versions if these files or stick with the ones listed in this guide?? Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the comments. Let me know how it goes if you get around to trying it yourself.

    I've had hit and miss success with some of the newer files.

    The DOP Mii version I reference in here, is newer than the one I originally used because it cleaned up some steps.

    However, I tried a later version of the cIOS utility a couple of times when I ran into problems. Turned out the trouble I was having was something else, so I rolled back to the original version that I used in this post to keep a handle on what I was changing.

    With so many steps, so many variables that could end up causing it to fail, I'm reluctant to change too much in the process at any given time. If you try a newer file, just make sure it comes from a proper source. And only try one at a time, that way if it doesn't work, you'll know what caused the problem.

    I'm usually very guilty of always trying to run the latest anything. I guess in this case I was a little afraid of deviating from what I've seen work, for fear of bricking my or someone else's Wii.

  3. Sounds good, if these steps worked for you I'll give it a go with the file versions stated here. I too am guilty of the "gotta use the new" mentality, not for the Wii but for programs, and sometimes newer isn't always better. Thanks for the reply, will post when I try it out.