Over the holiday weekend Susan and I stopped by a thrift store, where I ran across this disgustingly dirty Nintendo Wii for $20. Usually when I find a cheap Wii for sale it means the optical (DVD) drive has died, but I had other plans for one so I decided to take a gamble. The bundle had a power supply, Wiibar, and video cable, but no Wiimotes.
Ten minutes later after a quick coating of Fantastik, we were in business.
With everything connected (and a borrowed Wiimote from the other Wii) I fired it up with my fingers crossed.
So, it booted right up. You can see the previous owner had Netflix installed and a few other apps. The next test was to insert a game and see if the internal optical drive was any good or not.
No dice. The error reads, “An error has occurred. Press the Eject Button and remove the disc, then turn the Wii console off and refer to the Wii Operations Manual for help troubleshooting.”
This is unfortunately a common fate for Nintendo Wii consoles. The internal optical drive dies, and when it does, most people toss them into the trash. Nintendo will (or at least would) replace the internal drive for $90, but you can buy refurbished consoles at GameStop for $60, so replacing the drive doesn’t make much sense. In some cases it is possible to replace only the drive’s lens, but… good luck with that operation.
There is an alternative, however — the soft mod. This only works on the original-style Wii (not the newer “Wii-Mini”). I modded my first Wii in 2010 and things have only got easier since then. Once the machine is soft modded, you’ll be able to do all sorts of cool things — including loading game ISOs from a connected USB hard drive.
But first, a hurdle. The original owner had set a security PIN code, which prevented me from formatting the Wii and/or modifying it. I tried “1111” and “1234” with no luck before resorting to Google. The first website I found, Nintendo’s, said they could reset it for 50 cents. Seriously. Nintendo wants 50 cents for the reset code! Fortunately, the second link Google returned was to this page, which will generate a parental control password reset code for you (for free). With the console unlocked, I was able to format the machine and move forward.
With the machine formatted, I grabbed an SD card and followed the instructions on this page. Unlocking the Wii took about 5-10 minutes, once I had everything downloaded. Note that for the original style Wii, as long as the firmware isn’t too new, you don’t need to open the unit to mod it. It’s all done through a package which installs from the SD card slot. Clever!
And that’s really all there is to it. I went into more detail in this post from 2010, but now that the Wii has been modded it can read games directly from an external USB hard drive. I used Wii Backup Manager to backup my original Wii games. What you will do is connect an external USB hard drive to your PC, insert a Wii disc into your PC’s DVD drive, and use Wii Backup Manager to copy your games (one at a time) over to the external hard drive. Once you have finished, you connect the USB drive to the Wii’s USB port and with help from another program (I use USBLoaderGX), you can play your Wii games right off the external hard drive. No optical drive or discs required!
I know that this workaround is used more for piracy than anything else, but as I mentioned on that previous entry I wrote, this was a great way for me to let my kids play the Wii without having to worry about them scratching up my original games. Now, six years later, I’ve found another use for it — an inexpensive way to breath life back into a Nintendo Wii someone else had tossed away.