Thinking about hacking a wii? Start here! [A basic introduction to Wii hacking]
The staff here at WiiHacks find ourselves answering the same few questions many, many, many times. I've put together many of these questions and corresponding answers here. The target audience for this is users who have not yet modified their Wii and are thinking about making changes, but are unsure where to start. If that's you, read on, hopefully this can clear things up for you. If not, read on anyway, it may help in your understanding.
Please note that while I may introduce personal opinions into this guide, I have tried to lay everything out in a concise manner to help you make an informed decision about what, if anything, you want to do to your console.
This is NOT intended as a guide on how to perform any tasks, we have many guides for that, but more intended to give some more meaning and understanding to the already existing guides. This thread is intended to enhance your understanding about the Wii and what it can do, and the process that is necessary to get it to do certain things. In addition, it helps to provide some context to steps performed in other guides.
This article makes extensive use of spoiler tags. This helps to keep things orderly. To use a spoiler tag, click the [+] sign to show all of the text for the particular spoiler, as below.
<<== Click the + sign to the left expand this out
Congratulations, you are smart enough to use spoiler tags. Pat yourself on the back. Done? Good. Now keep reading....
Okay, I have a wii, and I want to hack it! What can I do, where can I start, what options are available to me?
There are two main categories of wii modification “Soft Modding” and “Hard Modding”.
My personal opinion is that discs, as a medium, stink. They are inconsistent and subject to fingerprints, scratches, etc. I try to avoid them whenever I can. To me, this is a serious consideration for either option. Initially I hardmodded my wii to protect my originals (mostly from my kids). Once softmodding became available, and reliable, I switched over to a hard-drive based console.
Here is what happens to wii discs over time. This one won't work anymore.
The term “softmod” refers to software modification. Softmodding is achieved using only software, no physical modification of the wii is required to accomplish this. Softmodding makes use of custom software to launch games either from dvd (if the hardware allows it) or from a hard drive. Softmodded wiis can be connected to a hard drive, and have the users entire collection of Wii games placed on the hard drive. This allows for switching from game to game from the comfort of your armchair :)
What makes softmodding good
Can be done without any additional cash
Can be done without opening (and potentially damaging) the wiis internals.
Allows homebrew applications to be run.
Allows wii titles to be run from alternate media source (hard drive/etc)
Out-of-region games can usually be played by forcing the video type in the loader.
What makes softmodding bad
Requires modification of wii IOS in order to run.
Newer games may require updated IOS in order to run.
Updating from Nintendo can potentially kill softmods.
There is some risk of "bricking" either temporarily or permanently with softmodding. This risk can be mostly mitigated by reading and following directions carefully.
The term “hardmnod” refers to hardware modification. Hardmodding involves opening the wii and adding something which will enhance the normal functionality. This can be as simple as a modchip which allows the Wii to play backed-games, or can be as complicated as a WODE, which is basically a hardware jukebox for wii games
. Modern wii chips can be installed inline to the DVD ribbon cable and require no soldering. Some allow for game titles to be played directly from SD cards.
What makes hardmodding good
Pretty much universally compatible once installed.
Uses standard IOSes. No need for software modifications.
Some hardmods allow for games to be launched from SD.
Some later hardmods (Sundriver
/etc) allow existing dvd drive to be replaced with a hard drive.
What makes hardmodding bad
Requires opening the console.
Some require soldering (most dont at this point)
Does not allow for homebrew
Most do not allow for USB disc loading.
HOWEVER: Hardmodded wiis CAN also generally be softmoodded.
As of today, most folks choose to softmod their Wii.
I have a (white/black/red/blue) wii, what can I do to it?
Okay. This question gets asked more times than I can explain. The color of a wii makes no difference at all, except to give you a clue as to how old the unit is. For the purposes of this discussion, there are four main groups of Wiis that have different abilities and limitations.
- The oldest Wiis (white only) have an uncorrected boot1 bug which allows the BootMii program to be installed as boot2. When properly configured, these Wiis can support burned media.
- After the boot1 issue corrected, a number of white wiis were produced that have drives that can support burned media.
- Later white wiis and ALL black and Red wiis are outfitted with a new drive chipset that prevents DVD media from working. Please note This applies to ALL black, red, and blue wiis.
- In late 2011, new Wiis were released that do not have backwards compatibility with gamecube games. This means these console have gamecube controller ports. While still softmodable, these units are also not compatible with burned media/DVDs. The Walmart blue Wii, and a black wii bundle are included in this. An easy way to tell the gamecubeless black wii- It is being bundled with a music CD.
- WII MINI UPDATE In late 2012 new WII MINIs will be released. At present we do not have enough information about the console specifications. While rumors are sometimes untrue, there may not be a USB port or WIFI on this unit, making it (at a minimum) more difficult to hack. Until we have more information about this console and its potential, it is to be avoided for hacking purposes.
So, if you have a red, black, or blue wii, or a newer white wii your Wii WILL NOT play burned backups.
I wonder.... is my Wii old enough to play backups?
If you have a red, black or blue wii, the answer is simple. No
You can not play disc backups. If you have a white wii check your drive's likely chipset
at Wiidrives. If your chipset is identified as one of the following, you should be able to use backed up media. I'd say be happy about that, but discs stink, so ....
Wii drive chipsets compatible with backup media
Here is an example of what WiiDrives will provide you with:
For this example, wiidrives indicates that the chipset is probably GC2-D2C or GC2-D2C2, which is good news for disc-lovers, since both can play disc backups.
Here is another example:
This Wii cannot play backup media.
If your Wii's chipset (or likely chipset) is NOT listed here, it likely cannot play backup DVDs.
This should give you some idea of whether or not your Wi can do backed up media. Again, dvd media stinks, and the only reason likely you're thinking about using it is because you've never seen a wii attached to a hard drive before....
But if I can’t play backup DVDs then…..
Fear not. ALL wiis (except the Wii Mini) can be softmodded and be configured to use a USB hard drive. This is what most of our members choose to do. It allows you to take your existing collection of games and rip them to a USB hard drive. This is accomplished by using a “loader”. The whole purpose of the loader is to show all the games available on your hard drive, and allow you to pick one to run.
The homebrew channel, which was developed by Team Twiizers
, is the fundamental building block for off-label Wii software. This channel has allowed developers to create their own software for the Wii and provides the ability users to run this software. Because it is not a licensed Nintendo product, Nintendo as a corporation seems to be unhappy that this software exists and has gone to great lengths to stop it from being installed. Once the homebrew channel is installed on a Wii, any number of applications can be run. Installing the homebrew channel is the first step in soft modding a Wii console.
Installing the homebrew channel on a virgin Wii
developed software called HackMii
, which is an installer for BootMii
and the Homebrew channel
. Each wii has a specific system menu installed on it, and depending on which system menu exists on your system, there are different methods of launching the hackmii installer. Basically what the coders have done is found places of poorly-coded software that can be used to launch the hackmii installer. This is called an “exploit”, because the poorly coded software is being exploited to run an application that was never intended to run.
There are different exploits depending on which system menu you have. As I said earlier, Nintendo doesn’t like homebrew. They introduced the 4.2 and 4.3 system menus with the sole intent of defeating homebrew software on the wii. They didn’t do such a good job with 4.2, as it was able to be re-hacked shortly after its release. With 4.3 nintendo fixed the previous exploits fairly well and new exploits had to be found and utilized. As of this writing, all wiis [EXCEPT THE WII MINI!]
, up to and including system menu 4.3 can be soft modded without the need for any specific game title. There are prior exploits available that use game titles, and while these can still be used, they are no longer necessary.
To determine your Wii's system menu version:
- Click on "Wii Options" button
- Click on "Wii Settings" button
- Your Nintendo Wii System Menu Version will appear in the top right hand corner of the screen
Bannerbomb (3.x through 4.2)
is used on 3.x through 4.2 wiis. The hackmii installer can be launched on these consoles by simply putting the installer on an SD card following a few simple steps. The Wii console then tries to display a picture for this program, and because of some clever coding, instead launches the installer. If you can use it, Bannerbomb is without a doubt the simplest way to install the homebrew channel.
way to hack a 4.3 wii without a disc is to use the new LetterBomb
exploit. This works on all 4.3 wiis. This is covered in the guide as well. This works on 4.3 consoles. You basically just get your wii's MAC address (a string of numbers/letters that identifies your wireless card) and use an online service to build a custom hackmii installer. So yes, yes you can hack your 4.3 wii without a game disc now.
If you for some reason you prefer to use one of the older game exploits, these will work as well. These generally involve a save game, and a specific set of actions to perform in a game which cause the hackmii code to launch. Note, there is no way to downgrade your system menu version without first installing the homebrew channel.
Bootmii is another program that is installed by the HackMii installer along with the homebrew channel. . It is a piece of software that can backup (and in some cases restore) the wii’s internal memory, called the NAND. This is around 500 megs. Anyone who is installing the homebrew channel or softmodding a wii needs to make, and keep a copy of the NAND backup.
It can be used to restore your wii in case something bad happens (or you do something silly) either alone or with the help of a Wii professional.
There are two different ways that BootMii can install, and which method is available is based on the age of your console.
Bootmii as Boot2, or "Why it's good to have an old white Wii"
The boot sequence for a Wii is Boot1 -> Boot2 -> System menu. The oldest wiis have a bug in the boot1 code which allows the boot2 to be modified. If you have a wii that has this bug, do a happy dance, because you can use it to recover from most any software related issue you may have. This is accomplished by replacing the stock boot2 software with a bootmii version of boot2. What this does is looks for a specific set of files on the SD card, and found at boot time, it will short-circuit the normal boot process and launch the software from the SD card.
Bootmii as IOS
Newer wiis will allow bootmii to be installed as a IOS only. This means that the bootmii program will only be available to be launched from within the homebrew channel itself. This is where the majority of current Wii owners will find themselves. The downside to this is that in the event of a serious software issue, the Wii many need to be restored by a professional using the backup created earlier.
If the HackMii installer tells you that you cannot install BootMii as Boot2, thats the end of it. There is no way to change this without replacing the Wii's NAND (You dont want to do this.)
Frequently Asked Bootmii/NAND Questions:
Bootmii says that boot2 install is not possible? So what do I do?
This is normal, and expected for newer wiis. While you should not restore your NAND using bootmii on newer wiis, the NAND backup is still crucial if something goes wrong down the line.
Can I restore a NAND backup from another wii?
No. No, you cannot
Can I restore a NAND backup if BootMii is installed as IOS (Not boot2)
Technically maybe, but its a really, really, really bad idea. Dont do it
Oh Noes! I've got bad blocks while making a NAND backup!
This is perfectly normal. A few bad blocks is nothing to be concerned about. Most Wii's have at least a few.
IOS? CIOS? WTH?
When any program on the wii starts, it uses a specific IOS or cIOS to facilitate running. The easiest way to think of these is as a proxy between the software itself and the wii’s hardware. Each wii title, be it a disc-based game, or a wiiware/VC title, is programmed to use a specific IOS to run. IOSes are identified by a unique number. Each has a slightly different set of capabilities. In order to allow games to be run from a USB drive, custom IOSes (cIOS) have been created. These use one or more Nintendo IOSes as a “base” or starting point, and then are modified to accomplish specific goals. The Wii console identifies these by number, and cIOSes are installed at specific known locations in the Wii’s memory. When launching a game via the disc channel, by default it will use whatever IOS the disc instructs the wii to load. Once an IOS is released, new functionality is never added, updates are simply bugfixes to existing code. When using a loader and either booting a game directly from a disc or from a USB hard drive, you will select a DIFFERENT ios for the game to run on than it was normally intended to. So the STOCK wii IOSes are not used in this case, instead you’ll pick a specific cIOS.
IOS - Used on unmodified systems to start games, and games started from disc channel*
cIOS - Used by loaders to start games from disc, usb, or SD.
* Priiloader has a hack that allows this to be forced to use a different ios for disc channel.
The current Wiihacks guide install extra cIOSes that allow for virtually every known game to be played. The details of what these are and their particular qualities are beyond the scope of this guide but are discussed at length in other threads on Wiihacks. All cIOSes are in the 200 range (249, 250, 224, etc).
I just got a new game and it wants me to update! (AKA: Should I update to 4.3?)
Now that you know a little about IOSes, this should become more clear. New versions of IOSes are sometimes included with new system menus. The requirement to run the game is that the particular IOS be installed, NOT a specific menu. WII GAMES NEVER REQUIRE A SPECIFIC SYSTEM MENU TO BE INSTALLED IN ORDER TO RUN. Instead, they just need the appropriate IOS installed.
Wii games generally have an update partition on them in addition to the game partition. This partition can contain updated IOSes, or even have entire new system menus associated with them. While the IOS is all that is technically required for a game to run, games that have a new system menu on them will check to ensure that the system menu installed is at least as current as the one on the disc. If not, it will prompt to update even if the correct IOS is available. When following a wiihacks guide, this problem is remedied with a hack in Priiloader which disables the wii from updating from discs.
Updating your Wii, either from a disc or online is NOT recommended. Generally speaking, updates do little that is helpful. If there are helpful bits to a particular revision, they will likely be issued as standalone updates from the Wii community.
Okay, I'm convinced. I want to softmod my Wii. What do I need before I start?
To softmod a a wii you will need:
- Access to the internets via a PC
- A SD reader of some type for the PC.
- The ability to read one of the Wiihacks guides.
- 1 or 2 gig SD card. Sandisk is preferred for compatibility. You can not use a SDHC card for softmodding. Any card that is larger than 2 gigs is (most likely) SDHC. Smaller cards will not work as you need at least 500 megs available to do a backup of your system. Do not skip the NAND backup step. After softmodding, a wider variety of cards can be used, but the hackmii installer is more particular. If you can find one, try and use Sandisk. If you cant, Kingston cards have shown good results as well.
- If you’re running 4.3, you will need to get your Wii's MAC address to use the Letterbomb method (no game required) or one of the exploitable games.
- A Gamecube controller can be helpful when making a NAND backup.
- Reasonable technical savvy is highly recommended, though not strictly required.
System Menu Themes
System menu themes are one of the primary sources of bricked Wiis. You really need to consider the risks before doing this. If you don't have BootMii installed as Boot2, don't even consider this. Get a USB loader and configure it to look all pretty if you need to, but let the system menu be. You have been warned. Again.
Can I (still) use netflix on a (soft/hard)modded wii?
My wii has a modchip in it. Can I still softmod?
Whats this PriiLoader thing?
is an application that was developed over time to enhance how the system menu launches. It is presently being developed and maintained by Wiihacks member DacoTaco
. Priiloader is a piece of software that essentially installs itself as part of the system menu and gives you a number of great controls over how your system behaves. It allows you to block updates from nintendo, boot directly to something other than normal system menu, and do countless other things. Installing priiloader is generally recommended for all users. Newer Wiis that do not have bootmii installed as boot2 should absolutely install priiloader.
Should I reformat my wii? I did something wrong and want to start over! How can I make my Wii a virgin?
Guess what? Once your wii is no longer a virgin, it's no longer a virgin. :) Formatting the wii is generally unhelpful
and should only be done under the advisement of Wiihacks Staff. If you want to update your existing softmod, there is no additional preparation necessary. Just follow the Softmod Any Wii
guide, and use the "homebrew channel already installed" option.
FYI, Nintendo has software that can detect if your wii was ever softmodded
, and will deny in-warranty claims if "unauthorized software" (read HBC) is detected.
I softmodded my Wii a long time ago....
and now <xxx> isn't working right - what should I do? If you're having any issues with an older (> ~6 months ago) softmod OR used any other guide to softmod your Wii and are looking for help, the first thing that our staff will have you do is follow the Softmod Any Wii guide to get your system updated to what we consider do be a baseline. Attempting to troubleshoot issues with older cIOSes or other peoples guides can be frustrating and in some cases nearly impossible. We've set up our guide so that it has the latest PROVEN software for your softmod needs. The guide contains explicit instructions on how to update an existing softmod.
Okay, so I've softmodded my console and ....
That's a lot of words! I'm still confused!
Well, most anyone can follow the Mauifrog's Sotfmod Any Wii Guide
without issue. This guide is more intended to give you some extra information, but it's not strictly necessary to softmod a Wii.
If I attempt to softmod my Wii is there a chance I could brick it?
But with the current methodology, the risk is largely mitigated. The reward for getting a Wii softmodded is great. If you follow the directions carefully and STOP and ASK if you have any problems, you should be fine.
Notice about Piracy
This is a sticking point that we at Wiihacks have to deal with on a daily basis. So let me spell this out.
This information is to be used strictly for users to make better use of their legally-purchased wii games.
We at Wiihacks do NOT support piracy, and we will not assist any member who is known to be involved in any pirate activity. To make this perfectly clear: No one here is going to tell you where to go to download copyrighted games. Asking will likely get you booted from the site.