Expanded Storage For Your Wii U Explained

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wii u expandable memoryIf you’ve purchased a Wii U, or plan to do so this holiday season, you’re far from alone. The console sold over 400,000 in its first week making it one of the most successful launches in history. Excitement about the hardware seems high.

That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, however. One area of concern is storage. The Wii U Basic offers just 8GB of long-term memory and the Deluxe ups that to a still-measly 32GB. That’s not much space for users who want to download games from Nintendo’s online store. Fortunately there are some ways to give the console extra space.

SD Cards With USB Adapter

wii u expandable memory

The Wii U has a front-loading SD/SDHC card slot that can be used to transfer data from an existing Wii. It supports cards up to 32GB and can be used for storage. However, Nintendo does not let users store Wii U data on the SD/SDHC card. The card will only be accessible when using the console in Wii emulation mode.

The work-around for this is the use of an USB adapter that supports SD Cards. These can be purchased for $10 or less online. That’s not a bad idea if you happen to have some SD cards just lying around and, since the Wii U sees the SD card as a USB device, games can played from it. But this isn’t the most cost-effective solution for most people and it could be patched out if Nintendo desires.

USB Flash Drives

wii u expandable storage

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The Wii U has USB ports, and those can be used to connect a flash drive. User reports across the web so far indicate that most flash drives will work fine with the Wii U. I have several drives and they were all recognized.

However, Nintendo does not recommend using flash drives for storage. Read/write cycle limitations are the reason. Flash drives are not called on for frequent use and so they don’t bother to pack in flash memory that can withstand a ton of read/write cycles. It’s possible that using a flash drive as storage on a Wii U could wear it out quickly. And you’ll lose all of your data when the drive kicks the bucket.

In other words – use at your own risk.

USB External Hard Drives

wii u expandable storage

External USB hard drives with capacities of up to two terabytes are compatible with the Wii U. Only one drive can be connected at a time.

Nintendo recommends the use of a hard drive that has its own power source. Portable drives that rely on power via USB should work but stability is not guaranteed. Nintendo has stated that this because some USB-powered hard drives actually exceed the power standard of USB 2.0.

Internal hard drives will work with the system if they are placed into an enclosure that has USB support. This opens up the possibility of using an old PC internal hard drive or even a solid state drive.

USB 3.0 drives are compatible but will only work at USB 2.0 speeds.


wii u expandable memory
Drives that are used with the Wii U must be re-formatted by the console. Nintendo uses a proprietary format that is known only to the company. Drives are formatted such that they work only with a particular Wii U. If a hard drive is disconnected from one console and connected to another its data will not be accessible on the second console.

That means a drive formatted for the Wii U can’t be used with other consoles or computer unless it’s partitioned. The Wii U itself has no way to partition a drive. An un-partitioned drive will be completely re-formatted by the console and all previous data will be erased.


Using an external drive with the Wii U is relatively simple. It’d be nice if the Nintendo used a common format. But, on the other hand, both Sony and Microsoft do not allow the use of an external drive for storing games or game data. Users instead have to buy a (very expensive) expansion drive if they’d like to upgrade. Nintendo’s approach is more affordable.

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