Complete Wii Softmodding / Hacking Guide, Part 1: An Introduction

This is the first part of my guide on how to softmod your Wii.  This part will merely serve as an introduction to the concepts that you will need to grasp before undergoing this, at times, risky procedure.  However, as you will see below, the risk does not come without great reward.

Risks of Softmodding Your Wii:

  • Unless each step is followed perfectly to the dot, you will likely kill, or brick, your console.
  • After the process is over, if you make some sort of mistake like doing a firmware update, you run the risk of bricking your console.  I’ll have the things you should be wary of throughout this guide.

Advantages of Softmodding Your Wii:

  • You will be able to play any backed up Wii game from a copied DVD-R, USB drive, or SD/SDHC card.
  • You will be able to play any backed up Gamecube game from a copied DVD-R.
  • You will be able to install any WiiWare or Virtual Console release for free.
  • You’ll be able to play imported games from other regions.
  • You will be able to run homebrew software, such as emulators, to play classic games for systems that the Virtual Console doesn’t even support like the GameBoy Advance.
  • It’s free — most of the things you will need are common household accessories.  You don’t have to spend money on a modchip and then worry about trying to install the thing.
  • You can get into homebrew development, which is what I’ll probably be doing a lot of =P

The reason I am writing this guide is because when I softmodded my Wii not too long ago, I had to pull information on how to do it from about three different sources.  It wasn’t as cohesive as it should’ve been, and there were many unnecessary steps that just furthered the risk of bricking my Wii.

Before you start softmodding your Wii, there are a few terms you need to be familiar with in order to really understand what you’re doing:

System Menu — The Wii’s “operating system”, though it really isn’t an operating system per se.  The System Menu is the GUI where you can access all of the different channels on your console, including the Disc Channel and the Wii Shop Channel.

Virgin Wii — A Wii that has never been hacked or tweaked in any unofficial way.

IOS — Probably stands for Input/Output System.  You can think of an IOS as a mix between a patch, a driver, and a plug-in.  There are dozens of them already installed on your Wii.  They are identified by their number (ie, IOS31 or IOS60), and they all serve a unique specialized function.  For example, IOS53 enables the Nintendo 64 expansion pack, and this IOS is required to be installed to run the Virtual Console version of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

cIOS — Stands for Custom Input/Output System.  This is a custom IOS that has been developed by a hacker, and is essential to running a lot of homebrew software on your Wii.  When you install a cIOS, it typically installs itself on the Wii as IOS249, well outside of the range Nintendo uses for releasing patches and updates.  Coincidentally, one of the first things that Nintendo’s repair guys check for on bricked consoles sent in is if IOS249 is installed.  If it is, they void your warranty.

cIOSCORP — I have no clue what the -CORP suffix stands for (nor why we need such elaborate abbreviations), but what cIOSCORP does is simple: it allows you to load backed up Wii and Gamecube games from the Wii’s disc channel instead of having to use a custom loader.  cIOSCORP is really a massive massive patch that turns every IOS on your Wii into a cIOS.  This a very complex procedure, but fortunately we have a simple installer that will do all of the work for us.

mIOS — The mIOS is a special IOS that runs automatically when a Gamecube game is loaded.  Think of it as your Wii’s “Gamecube driver.”  At some point in the guide, I will have you install a custom mIOS so your Wii will be capable of loading backed up Gamecube games.

*.wad — WAD files are kind of like a .zip file or .rar file for the Wii.  These files install some kind of content onto your console, which could be anything from a custom IOS to a Virtual Console game.

Homebrew Channel — A custom channel that you will install that enables you to launch homebrew applications, such as the WAD Installer.

Twilight Hack / Bannerbomb — Unfortunately, the Homebrew Channel doesn’t install itself on its own.  The Twilight Hack method was the original method for installing the channel, which involved using a hacked savegame for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to load a homebrew application from an SD card.  As of System Menu 4.0, this exploit has been patched and is obsolete.  Bannerbomb is the new way to get homebrew software onto your Wii, and it is much more easier and convenient than the Twilight Hack.  With Bannerbomb, all you have to do is simply upload the channel from your SD card and you’re done.

Sorry if that was slightly boring, but I promise it will pay off in the long run.  You really will need to be able to understand the things you’re messing with to feel confident about doing these hacks.  Here is a list of the things you’ll need to get all the way through this guide:

  1. An up and going Wii console (remote, sensor bar, and all).  All of them work with the exception of Korean models and a series of models which I’ll discuss in the next part.
  2. A spare USB flash drive.  Most flash drives are Wii-compatible.  I would recommend you have one with at least 1GB space.
  3. A spare SD card.  You can find these in most digital cameras.  Again, I recommend you have at least 1GB of space, but 512MB will probably work.
  4. A means of editing things on your SD card.  The majority of laptops have an SD card slot, and if you pulled yours from a digital camera, surely you have a way of plugging in your card to your computer.
  5. A willingness to read over every word and detail in this guide.  If you skimmed over anything in this introductory part, go back over it.  You’ll probably need the information at some point.  If you skim in the later parts and miss even one detail, chances are you’ll join the mass amounts of noobs who did the same thing and bricked their Wii.
  6. Network access on your Wii.  This could be either through a Wireless Access Point or a USB Network Adapter.  If you have a laptop, chances are you can turn it into a Wireless Access Point through what’s called an ad-hoc connection.  If you want to go that route, Google the words “ad hoc connection” with your operating system.  From personal experience, I can tell you the easiest OS to do this on is Mac OSX.
  7. A computer running at least Windows XP.  Vista and 7 will also work.  If you have a Mac, when the need arises, I suggest you either use Boot Camp, Parallels, or VMware to get Windows going.  If you have Linux, then you probably already have some sort of dual booting in place.
  8. Basic technical knowledge of how computers work.  If you’ve followed this guide along so far and have an inkling of an understanding of what I’ve been talking about, then you’ve probably already got that.

There are a few optional things you may need later down the road depending on what route you want to go when it comes to launching game backups.  The Wii can only read DVD-R discs, with a few rare, and I do stress rare, exceptions.  As a general rule, DVD+R discs are incompatible.  If you’re wanting to go ahead and buy some DVD-R’s, the best brand out there for Wii backups is without a doubt Verbatim DVD-R’s with Advanced AZO dye.  You can find a 50 pack of those at any Best Buy (or probably any other computer store) for about 30$.  That may seem expensive when it comes to buying DVD’s nowadays, but you get what you pay for.

Other FAQs:

Q: After I softmod my Wii, will I be able to play online or use WiiConnect24?

A: Yes.  Online play has absolutely no problems, and Nintendo can’t force you to update your firmware with WiiConnect24 — it’s optional.

Q: Will the Wii Shop channel still work?

A: Yes, even though you’ll probably not need it anymore.

Q: Will I still be able to update to the latest firmware?

A: Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it through ordinary means.  You will have to use a special homebrew updater developed by Waninkoko which will stop Nintendo from overwriting all of your hacks and tweaks, possibly bricking your console in the process.

Q: I’ve already tried to do some softmodding work to my Wii with little success.  Will I still be able to follow your guide?

A: Probably.  I will provide a method to make your Wii a virgin again and remove most, if not all, of the hacks you have on it, but you’ll be doing that method at your own risk.

Q: I’ve updated my Wii to the latest firmware, 4.1.  Will I still be able to follow your guide?

A: Yes.

Q: Do I absolutely have to have an SD card to hack my Wii, or can I do it with only a USB drive?

A: You will absolutely need an SD card because of the way that the Bannerbomb exploit works.

Well, thanks for reading through this long-winded introduction.  If you’re still serious about softmodding your Wii and some concepts are a little foggy, I would suggest reading through it again just for good measure.  If you have any questions, just ask me by leaving a comment.  You can continue on to part two by clicking here.

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81 Responses to Complete Wii Softmodding / Hacking Guide, Part 1: An Introduction

  1. [...] Wii Softmodding Guide, Part 1: An Introduction « Some Random UALR … [...]

  2. Brian says:

    I came across your blog while searching YouTube & the internet for instructions that put modding my Wii in perspective. It can drive someone crazy with all the versions to accomplish one task. How does one proceed? For 4.1 the process is basically the same but after looking at the files between these various instructions they’re not. Some have more than others. There is not one complete (start to finish w/ explainations) guide or instructions that I can find. Your guide so far helps a person understand in a way no one has before. There wouldn’t be so many posts and videos if they weren’t so incomplete.(so much left to question) I have since put it off until your guide is complete. Thanks for your time and effort.

  3. randomualrstudent says:

    If you tried to follow a tutorial on YouTube, you’re probably referring to NewlifeArcade’s (AKA Tim’s) guide. I tried to follow his stuff too when I first started, and he can be a little incoherent at times, and at other times I felt like he didn’t have a grasp on the concepts he was talking about. My guide will soon be complete, and will work for 4.1 guaranteed. Stay tuned :)

  4. CC says:

    Rar doesnt work for me, can you choose another uploading website PLEASE!

    And if I hack my wii perfectly and such, well I be a ble to play pirated games and play ordinary DVDs exapmle, film DVDs)???

  5. mick says:

    Cheers for the fantastic tutorial.
    Very much appreciated!
    I went through the nightmare of sorting through forum threads on softmodding a while back. with everything in the wii community moving so fast, it’s quite had to know what info is still current, and what’s been made redundant.

    I was thinking of updating the wii and softmodding again, your guide has saved me so much time.

    Again, thanks for the effort :)

  6. Kimzi says:

    Hi!

    I’m not quite into this stuff so I just have two questions.

    Why would you choose to softmodd your wii when it’s a big chanse you brick the console, why not use drivekey instead?
    And if you brick your console can you do something to fix it?

  7. jon says:

    ok i did every step when i got to run installer cios38 rev 14 and select ios35 for network installation i get an error -116 i am running 4.1u on a LU10 what should i do please help if u can and my internet connection is working should i maybe try to start over

  8. zach says:

    i was just wondering…. will my 64 mb sd card work? the rar files arent bigger than like 4 or 5 mb’s andyway so why do i need like 512 mb or even 1 gb? just wondering..im gonna go buy a 2 gig oe tommorrow but i was just curious if it would work with a small one such as 64 mb one.

  9. zach says:

    srry forgot this in my last post..will this work for 4.2? i downloaded the bannerbomb file for 4.2u and replaced your private folder with the one they gave me..should it still work?

  10. Tommy Jewell says:

    Can I softmod my wii without an internet connection? I do have a sd card.

  11. Awesome guide, very much appreciated! Gonna try this later on I think.

  12. blu_j says:

    Im a little confused about the Mac stuff i have to do i need to get a windows based software on my mac im guessing and they are listed above? Boot Camp, Parallels, or VMware?

  13. tikboy says:

    im new to wii i just bought it last week and update the firmware …now its 4.2U never been hack or anything brand new ..

    will this tutorial work for 4.2U?

    if it does not work can i revert things that i had done?

    thanks in advance

  14. Jenna says:

    This is a great tuorial! Kudos!

    I have one problem. I have a wii with serial num LU3499 which should be an older model and therefor moddable through your tutorial. It is updated with ver. 4.2U and i’m not sure if this will cause any problems. Can I still downgrade? do I have to do this step differently? or is this not yet possible?

    Please help!

  15. davi says:

    hi i have a 8Gb micro SD card but it has a SD adapter so will that be fine? Also Im in australia so my serial number is LAH102719442 how do i know if it will work?

  16. Xan says:

    I do not recommend using this guide. It is outdated and I cannot seem to get any help here to fix the problems. I am bricked right now, but I think I will be able to restore it.

    Do some google searching (search for the phrase wii hacks) for new guides with active forums. There is a lot of good information out there that is current.

    UPDATE: I was able to restore my Wii from the brick state this guide caused. My problem was after installing cioscorp, which I have found out to cause many problems. No offense to the author, his guide was great at its time but it is now outdated and will not work!

  17. Sleepy943 says:

    Will this worl for a Wii with a 4.2 menu???

  18. Jimmy says:

    I noticed on your FAQs that you confirmed that with version 4.1 you can still use this guide, but what about for version 4.2? I researched that 4.2 prevents Homebrew Channel versions 1.0.4 and older and blocks Bannerbomb v1.

    Is this going to be a problem? Is there anyway to go back to an older version?

  19. Jaybird says:

    Looking into soft modding the wii. Will I be able go on line to browse. And if I need to take it off then how easy is that? Sorry if this a old question but I am new to the wii.

  20. Keith Osik says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?Thanks

  21. kwhite1988 says:

    Ok, so, I kinda have a stupid question.

    As of right now, my Wii is at version 4.2u. I installed the homebrew channel via instructions on another side, but after reading your guide, I found this to be much more helpful and informative and would like to start all over again. That being said, how would I go about downgrading it back down to 4.1 as per your guide says? I read the section over and over and could be missing something, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  22. canon ink says:

    Hi,
    I’m impressed, you know what you’re talking about

  23. kaywai says:

    I have a wiikey modchip in my wii and it seems that currently a few games refuse to work on my chipped wii. Are there any known issues on installing a softmod on a wii that’s already chipped?

  24. metheguy says:

    i wonder if i really need an USB-flashdrive because i don’t have one with enough memory. is it possible to do it with only a SD-card?

  25. splatt says:

    Will the san disk card for Wii work, or will I have to get a regular SD card?

  26. Marco Scheepers says:

    It seems like you REALLY know what you’re talking about.

    I’m one of those noobs that tried to do it on my own.
    There is no problem with my wii (yet), but is scared i will do something wrong…
    Can I delete what I’ve done so far and then follow your tutorials?
    I’v already installed homebrew, but cant play my games thaqt i got from a friend. (on a external hard drive)
    I’ve tried everything and very happy to have stumbled upon your tutorials.

    Another thing, my Wii is a PAL version (I’m in South Africa) and would also like to know if that can also be that my games can’t work.

    PLEASE HELP

    thank you

  27. This Guy says:

    will this guide work for System menu 4.2U ?

  28. Ralph says:

    Will your guide work for firmware 4.2U? I have tried going through a guide lifehacker for softmod and it didn’t work, so I probably have a partial hacked Wii, so will I have to make it a virgin wii?

  29. Answer the question for a chance to win an iPhone 3GS!

  30. Cool, video is turning into really popular on the internet

  31. justanoob says:

    I recently updated to v4.3….will this still work??

  32. Shawn says:

    Im having a problem with softmodding my wii, I have firmware 4.2u … I have installed HBC but can not get rid of Ios249 !! What should I do ?

  33. denzul says:

    hi i updated to v4.3e and want to softmod it is this still poss ?

  34. Faizaan says:

    heyy (:
    Your guide looks pretty legit, so i want to follow ;)
    But the thing is, i don’t have an SD card…
    However, i have a microSD card that uses a USB to be plugged into the computer.
    Do you think this will work on the WII?
    If so, pleeeeaaasee tell me how!

  35. [...] Complete Wii Softmodding / Hacking Guide, Part 1: An Introduction « Some Random College Student&#03… (tags: wii hack hacking nintendo homebrew mod softmod loader howto console) Leave a Comment [...]

  36. djlo says:

    hey there, just an edited tip: “and it is much more easier and convenient than the Twilight Hack.” should be “and it is much easier and more convenient than the Twilight Hack.” also, thanks for the guide, cant wait to use it!

  37. djlo says:

    also, that should be “editing”….ironic?

  38. swankygweggie says:

    hi
    want to softmod my wii, can i do this with the current latest software, i dont know what it is, could you help me?

  39. every day you find somthing , good job, I will bookmark your site to kep track in the future

  40. Granted says:

    It would really be great, if you would publish an article. I have found a website (see above), but a real affirmation am I still missing :?.

  41. Whats up, I discovered your blog in a new listing of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, will need to have been a typo, Your blog seems good. Have a nice day.

  42. Brian Kleinknecht says:

    Will this work with new Wii’s? I just bought a brand new black one and want to softmod it.

  43. tommygirl says:

    i have a wii that belongs to my mom someone else has tried to hack it it somewhat works but does not play all the games that the one i haked does i was going by your instructions to try and remove it but when i try to get the download i extracted to the sd card it says it can not load from sd card could you please help thanks

  44. Tommy says:

    Unfortunately, the Twilight hack is now antiquated. Different disc exploits are now used to hack a Wii. See this guide for detailsSoftmod any Wii Guide

  45. I think this blog post was really a awesome beginning to a potential series of articles about this topic. A lot of writers pretend to comprehend what they’re talking about when it comes to this topic and generally, nearly no one actually get it. You seem to know about it though, so I think you ought to start writing more. Thanks!

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  55. Harley Jackson says:

    What type of flash drive works with a wii? niether of my flash drives work with it. is there something I have to do to get the flash drives to work?

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