Hacking the Wii

The Wii stopped reading discs a while back. I decided I could just hack it to play games on the Wii from my hard drive using work done by the Wii modding communities. Here is what I learned:

What is needed:

- Hard Drive (I got a 250 gig Maxtor external USB drive) cost $60
- LG GDR 8164B DVD-ROM USB Unit (slim line model) cost me $50 on eBay
- SD Card (I used the nintendo 1 Gig SD that we got for the Wii)
- SD Reader (I used the integrated SD Reader on my HP printer)
- Windows XP (most tools for Wii hacking are for win, since I have a Mac, I used Bootcamp to partition the drive and install XP)

Procedure Outline:

1. Use SD Card to install Homebrew Channel on Wii, and then BootMii - get download from http://bootmii.org/download/
2. Backup Wii NAND via BootMi on SD Card (go into settings, select the icon that represents copying data from Wii to SD Card)
3. Install Loader (this will enable the Wii to access a WBFS formatted hard drive with your games on it) - http://adewii.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/howto-prepare-a-system-menu-4-2-wii-for-launching-backups-from-blank-dvd-or-usb-drive/
4. Rip the game disks using RawDump 2.0 or FriiDump - see wiinews.com or wiinja.com or google RawDump (be careful where you go)
5: Get WBFS Manager - http://wbfsmanager.codeplex.com/ and use it to copy those ripped ISOs to your WBFS formatted drive (if your external drive is not yet WBFS formatted, use WBFS Manager to do this - note: it WILL wipe the drive of anything already on it).
6. Run the Loader, such as USBLoader GX or ULoader, and then play your games! (At this point you've got your game-loaded hard drive plugged into the wii)

Lessons Learned:

1. Just buy a new or used Wii and avoid the hacking altogether, unless you have all of the equipment already and some good hours of time to spare (3 hours per game rip)
2. The hacked Wii experience is unstable. Games will be crashing occasionally, and often with some games. The official nintendo experience is more stable.
3. This process can really take a lot of time to do just right. Once you get things down, it will be faster for the next time, but it can really waste your precious finite supply of remaining life time to get up to speed on everything.
4. It really feels good to finally successfully load and play a game from your hard drive!
5. You will be venturing into dangerous internet territory. Beware of the sites you visit, the items you download, and if possible, browse in a virtual machine browsing sandbox to avoid getting a virus from potentially malicious sites, or sites with ads and popups with malicious intent. Short of this, I recommend using Google Chrome and installing the Web of Trust extension which shows known dangerous sites. Be careful.
6. Consider paying someone on craigslist to mod your wii for you for 20 - 50 bucks.
7. I get the impression that http://usbloadergx.koureio.net/ is a better loader than ULoader from http://adewii.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/howto-prepare-a-system-menu-4-2-wii-for-launching-backups-from-blank-dvd-or-usb-drive/ . The latter loader is not as professionally put together, nor family friendly, as the app's menu cursor features a hand with a middle finger pointing, instead of an index finger.
8. Monkey Ball, the initial game I installed on the external drive, was very unstable. It crashed 7 or the 5 times we ran it.
9. http://www.wiihacks.com/ seems to contain a lot of good information
10. Youtube has a ton of tutorials on Wii hacking
11. Google specific terms of what you are trying to do. In my situation the most difficult hurdle was solved by the fruitful results that came back from the search string "Wii 4.2 USB Loader"
12. Be prepared to allow 3-4 hours per disk you want to rip. Ripping a disks takes at least 3 hours a piece. It was very unstable. It took a lot of fiddling just to get RawDump to recognize the discs before ripping them. But this was using an external drive on my PC due to my Wii's internal drive being bad. If your Wii's internal drive is still good, you should be able to backup disks to a hard drive straight from the Wii, but I wasn't able to test doing that.

Todd Hopkinson