It’s been superseded by the Nintendo Switch, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your Nintendo Wii U. Like its predecessor, the Wii, the Wii U has been hacked, enabling the installation of homebrew software and more.
Want to get more out of your Nintendo Wii U? Here’s how to set it up with homebrew software.
What Is Homebrew?
If you want to hack a games console, and install software that isn’t supposed to be run on it (such as a new operating system), you need homebrew. It’s basically software that is designed to make a proprietary hardware platform—such as the Wii U—programmable by users. As the Wii U is no longer Nintendo’s key games console, less and less software is set to be released for it.
If you want to keep your Wii U useful, you need to hack it with homebrew.
This approach is nothing new. The Wii U’s predecessor, the Nintendo Wii, could be hacked in a similar way.
While there are two ways to hack a Wii U, the easiest, temporary method is also the most unreliable. As such, we’re going to install the browser exploit in favour of the longer, permanent hack.
NOTE: Hacking your Wii U to install homebrew software is potentially dangerous to your system, and could lead to data loss, or even bricking. Only proceed if you are aware of the risks.
Also note that this is a comparatively simple hack. Other hacks need quite a bit of time, but this can be completed in around 30 minutes max.
What You Will Need for this Hack
To install the Homebrew Channel on your Wii U, ensure your system is on version 5.5.2, 5.5.3, and 5.5.4. Check this in System Settings, found on the Wii U Menu (not Quick Start). The version number is in the top-right corner of the screen.
Next, make sure you have:
- A network connection with internet access
- An SD card (or microSD with an SD adaptor) of at least 16GB or more, formatted in FAT32
You’ll also need to download the following files to your computer:
Save these to a directory on your computer, ready for use shortly.
How to Exploit the Wii U with Haxchi
To install the custom firmware, you will need to find an exploit, then run it.
The Haxchi exploit can be used on the following DS Virtual Console games:
|Animal Crossing: Wild World||Kirby: Mass Attack||New Super Mario Bros.||Super Mario 64 DS|
|Big Brain Academy||Kirby: Squeak Squad / Kirby: Mouse Attack||Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky||Wario: Master of Disguise|
|Brain Age||Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass||Pokemon Ranger||WarioWare: Touched|
|DK: Jungle Climber||Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks||Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs||Yoshi's Island DS|
|Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training||Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time||Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia||Yoshi's Touch & Go|
|Kirby: Canvas Curse||Mario Kart DS||Starfox Command|
If you don’t own any of these, you’ll need to buy one.
However, note that as of September 2019 you cannot simply purchase via your old-style Nintendo account with a credit card. Instead, you’ll need to ensure a Nintendo Network account has been created and linked to the old account. Once this is done, you can add funds to your account from a credit card or PayPal.
Head to this Nintendo help page for full details.
Frankly, it’s a massive pain, so if you don’t already own any exploit games, you may prefer to avoid. The browser exploit still works, after all.
After adding the funds, buy one of the apps. If you’re concerned about saving money, the cheapest available app is Big Brain Academy.
In some cases, exploitable games you already own won’t accept the hack. In this case, just delete then re-download it and try again.
Format the SD Card
Setting the right format for the SD card is vital for this hack to work.
If you’re using a Windows PC, the native formatting tool will not work. This is because it cannot be set to accurately format in FAT32 with an Allocation Unit Size of 32K (specifically, 32768 bytes).
To work around this, you’ll need a third-party formatting tool for SD cards. While many options are available, the best results have been reported using Guiformat. Two versions of this tool are available for Windows: a standard, 32-bit SD formatter, and a 64-bit version. If you’re using 64-bit Windows, you’ll need the latter version as the 32-bit Guiformat won’t work.
Once downloaded, run Guiformat. Ensure the correct Drive is selected, then set the Allocation unit size to 32768. Set a volume label (do not use “wiiu”, as this will cause conflicts and the hack will fail) then click Start.
Wait for the SD card to be formatted, then close Guiformat.
Copy the Wii U Hack Files to Your SD Card
With the SD card still in your computer, unzip the downloaded files as follows:
- Unzip the Homebrew Launcher ZIP file to the SD card. You should end up with a file structure wiiu/apps/homebrew_launcher.
- Next, unzip JSTypeHax-Payload.zip and send the payload.elf file to the wiiu directory on the card.
- Finally, extract the contents of the Haxchi ZIP file to the SD card.
Now that those files are copied to the SD card, you’re ready to run the hack. First, though, safely eject the SD card and insert it into the Wii U. Power the console up.
Run on Homebrew Launcher on the Wii U
To start the exploit process, you need to run the Homebrew Launcher. Ensure the Wii U is connected to the internet, then open the browser and go to u.wiidb.de. Take a moment to save the URL in your Wii U browser bookmarks.
Next, tap HAXX and wait. If everything you’ve done so far is successful, your Wii U will be exploited.
The Homebrew Launcher will load. Click the HB App Store link to explore the world of Nintendo homebrew applications and games! Here, a world of retro gaming will open to you, but there is a downside—it’s only available through the Wii U browser. To make the hack permanent, you can run the Haxchi installer, but note that this is not without risk.
Accessing the Homebrew Channel via the browser is the safer option. All you have to contend with is the problem of the SD card not being correctly formatted. In this case, you’ll see the following error:
Just go back and reformat, then copy the files back to the SD card to get around this.
Hacking the Wii U Permanently
As hacks go for the Wii U, this is perhaps the simplest yet. Other complicated, more permanent hacks are available online, but these aren’t necessary for recent versions of the Wii U’s firmware. Instead, opt for these if your Wii U isn’t on 5.5.2 or later.
The hack explained here will give you instant access to the Homebrew Channel. It’s simple, easy to do, and relatively quick.
However, it is a temporary web hack. It will do what you want (in most cases) but for a permanent hack you’ll need more time. This excellent video will walk you through the full, permanent Wii U Homebrew hack.
Hack Your Nintendo Wii U Today
You’ve got everything you need to run temporary and permanent hacks on your Nintendo Wii U. Time to make better use of the old console. With tools for running retro Nintendo games and even installing a Linux OS, there’s plenty to keep you engaged. Breathing new life into an old console has never been so much fun.
If you’re a fan of retro gaming systems, or just getting interested, understand that some old systems won’t “just work.” Instead, you need to take some care with them first. Here’s how to safely boot your retro gaming consoles and avoid component failure.