Wii Homebrew + USB Hard Drive

Friday, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:30am

I’ve been running Homebrew on my Wii for quite some time, which also gives me the ability to play backed up games from a USB hard drive. There’s several advantages to this; I don’t have to worry about changing DVDs anytime I want to play a game, in addition to not having to carry them around. Additionally, having the games loaded from a USB hard drive decreases the time it takes to load games.

I needed to keep a log of all the steps I had to take in order to get this functionality working, so I figured I might as well be helpful and provide a list of the steps needed to do so.

The only thing I ask is that you don’t follow these methods to pirate games. It’s wrong and it cheats developers out of money they deserve. Homebrew is there to help enhance the functionality of the system, not for free games. So please use it wisely and don’t abuse the system. It’s all on the honor system here folks.

Prerequisites:

  • External USB Hard Drive
  • Homebrew Channel already installed (See Twilight Hack if you have system 3.4 or less, Bannerbomb if you have 4.0-4.2, or LetterBomb if you have 4.3)

Step 1 – Install cIOS38 (if already installed, skip to Step 2)

  • Download cIOS38_rev14 (you can find it here)
  • Extract and rename “cIOS38_rev14-Installer” to “boot.dol”.
  • Create a folder named “cIOS38_rev14″ under the /apps directory on your SD card and copy the extracted “boot.dol” file to that folder.
  • If this doesn’t work and the installation fails, you need to download the Trucha Bug Restorer for your system. Try that and attempt to install cIOS38 again. Please note that this step may brick your Wii! I highly recommend you go ahead and install BootMii in boot2 and back up your NAND before attempting this portion. Doing so will allow you to recover should anything go wrong, otherwise you are continuing at your own risk!

Step 2 – Install a USB Loader

There are a couple of different USB Loaders available. Personally I use Configurable USB Loader, but you may want to pick a different loader that has other features you may like.

  • Follow any included instructions, otherwise you may only need to copy the extracted folder into your /apps directory on your SD card.

Step 3 – Format Your Hard Drive

You may want to partition your hard drive if you want to separate your Wii files from anything else you may have on there. Most loaders now support FAT32, but there are others that support NTFS as well. If you want to use NTFS you will need to check with your USB Loader to ensure that it supports that format as a feature.

  • If you want to partition your hard drive, you may want to try and download a partition manager like GParted. Otherwise you can use the whole hard drive.
  • If you decided to use GParted, simply partition the hard drive and format the partition you want to use as “FAT32″ and continue on to Step 4.

Step 4 – Install & Run Games

The following steps may differ depending on which USB loader you installed (I’m using Configurable USB Loader).

  • Launch the homebrew channel and your recently installed USB Loader.
  • Select “USB Mass Storage Device”.
  • Insert any game disc, and press “+” to install it. This may take some time depending on the size of the game.
  • Repeat last step for each and every game you want to install.
  • You’re now ready to play your backed up games! Just select your game, and press “A” to begin.

Some of the USB Loaders will automatically download game covers, and others don’t. If you downloaded one that doesn’t you can find them here. It’s only 40mb to download 450+ covers, so you might want to do it anyway just in case.

If you have any issues with the above steps, please be sure that you remove any and all GameCube memory cards. It seems some Homebrew stuff has issues with the memory cards in place when you’re trying to install.

I tried to be as detailed as possible and cover as many angles as I could, but I’m bound to have missed a thing or two. If you are attempting to follow this guide and are running into some issues, or I seem to be missing a vital step, leave a comment and I’ll try to address it as best as I can.

As a bonus, here’s what it all looks like using the loader I tried. Please note that the above steps will not create a USB Loader channel in your main menu, but will need to be accessed through the Homebrew Channel. If you’re interested in doing so, you can follow this guide here which outlines the steps to create a USB Loader Forwarder Channel and creating channels from games installed onto your USB hard drive.

This is only a small piece of the pie of what Homebrew offers. There’s tons of applications and utilities available, not to mention the ability to play DVDs. You can find more details and information on everything over at WiiBrew.org.

56 Responses to “Wii Homebrew + USB Hard Drive”

  1. Guy Walker said
    Jun 2nd, 2009 @ 10:36am

    This is totally cool. Trust me I have seen it! Jason lets box tonight! without the CD

  2. Carl Bolger said
    Jun 9th, 2009 @ 5:14pm

    Thank you, Jason.

  3. Anonymous said
    Jan 31st, 2010 @ 7:21pm

    Thanks you for your post. I would like to know how to copy game from one hard drive to another? please help thanks again

  4. Anonymous said
    Feb 1st, 2010 @ 5:05pm

    WBFS manager v3 has a built in drive to drive copy feature for raw partitions.

  5. needhelp said
    Feb 4th, 2010 @ 6:42pm

    hey if i use gparted , and i got something on my hdd, will it delete anything after formatting it?

  6. Jason said
    Feb 5th, 2010 @ 11:43am

    @needhelp Yes, anytime you format a hdd you remove any information on the disc, so you’ll need a backup. GParted does allow you to adjust the size of your partitions so that you can free up some space to create a new partition, but it’s always good to back up your data just to be safe.

  7. Anonymous said
    Feb 18th, 2010 @ 10:55am

    In theory, can i use ANY USB hard drive, as long as it is formatted/set up using the steps you posted?

  8. Jason said
    Feb 18th, 2010 @ 7:30pm

    For the most part, yes. There’s a HD compatibility list here if you want to look for your hard drive.

  9. Anonymous said
    Feb 19th, 2010 @ 9:03pm

    I had a friend do all of this to my WII and he let me barrow one of his external hard drives until I could get my own, I finally got a 1 TB hard drive and had him do a direct copy of his but it was only a 60 GB and he had to partition my hard drive, How can I delete the partition and have full use of the 1 TB without deleting what games I have I really dont want to download all those games again

  10. Mithie said
    Feb 27th, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Hi. I’ve got a Western Digital Essential Edt. external harddrive, and I’m trying to partition it into 2 partitions: 1 for wii games and 1 for PS2 games.

    I’ve successfully formatted 1 partition into FAT32 and loaded some PS2 games onto it without any problems, they play perfectly.

    I tried to use WBFS manager to format the other partition into the correct file system, but since it was unformatted it didn’t have a drive letter, so I couldn’t select the unformatted part of the harddrive. So I used Windows to first format it into NTFS file system, and after that I formated it into WBFS file system with the WBFS manager. So far so good. But when I plug the harddrive into the Wii, my USB loader (I’m using USB loader GX) won’t detect the harddrive.

    What is wrong?

  11. Jason said
    Feb 27th, 2010 @ 8:21am

    @Mithie Newer versions of USB Loader now support FAT32 as long as you use Hermes cIOS 222/223 which this tutorial unfortunately does not cover. I haven’t tested it myself since I’m still using cIOS 249 but you could try installing 222 and using a FAT32 partition to see if that works.

    Since WBFS manager didn’t work, try to set your desired Wii partition to a raw, unformatted partition and pulling it up in USB Loader GX to see if it will let you format that partition.

  12. Mithie said
    Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:48am

    Thank you, it probably would’ve worked, but turns out the PS2 games didn’t run as well as they should have from the hard drive, so I have to burn them on DVD’s anyway.

    I’ll just format the whole hard drive into a wbfs drive, I know for sure that it works with only 1 partition :)

  13. jay said
    Mar 13th, 2010 @ 11:38am

    I am using a Western Digital 1tb formated by the hacked usbloadergx. All games load just fine and are stored on the Western Digital. I am able to load and play as long as the Western Digital stayed plugged into USB 2 of the wii. However I want to be able to make DVD-r copies also from this drive. I need precise help. I am using vista 64. I have tried using the WBFS manager. I get errors when plugging up WD to the computer and loading the Western Digital. However I formatted a PNY 8gb and WBFS manager shows now with no errors. However there are no games on this drive and it stack dumps when loading games from the Wii. Going insane in the membrane!!!

  14. 11 steps to heaven said
    Mar 15th, 2010 @ 11:53pm

    Step 1. install WBFS manager 2.5 onto your pc
    Step 2. plug a PNY 8gb Flash and open WBFS manager on pc
    Step 3. Format PNY 8gb Flash using WBFS manager find the right drive (ex. I:)
    Step 4. Plug PNY 8gb Flash into bottom USB slot of wii
    Step 5. Open USB LOADER GX from homebrew
    Step 6. Insert game into wii and load *this takes a while*
    Step 7. Plug PNY 8gb Flash into pc and open up WBFS manager load from correct drive (ex. I:)
    Step 8. Extract ISO
    Step 9. Patch iso using IOS patcher and set it to your IOS mine is 249.
    Step 10. Insert blank disk open up Image Burn and find the iso you patched (it will look the same as if nothing happend but it’s patched – only the new mario and a few games will be different)
    Step 11. Open neo gamma 7 insert burn disc and enjoy.

  15. eth0 said
    Mar 19th, 2010 @ 4:37am

    is there any chance u got a solution for a 4.2E ?

  16. rob said
    Mar 21st, 2010 @ 6:20pm

    HELP!!!

    I have a 1tb western digital hard drive with 500 Wii Games on it. All the games work fine through the USB loader. I just purchased a 2tb western digital drive and copied all the games from the 1tb to the 2tb drive using WBFS manager. NOw when i try to play a game off the 2tb drive i click on the game and the game will not load it just takes me back to the wii main menu screen. The USB loader says that the new drive has 500 games and 2tb total space. ANY IDEAS??????? Thanks

  17. Jason said
    Mar 21st, 2010 @ 6:55pm

    @rob A lot of the larger drives aren’t tested and may not work. Check to see if your HD is listed here first.

  18. Rob said
    Mar 22nd, 2010 @ 5:17am

    Jason,

    My 2tb is on the list. it’s the 2tb Western Digital Essential. Here is a weird thing I noticed. I just put an original Wii disc in the Wii and copied it to the hard drive. When I click on the image of that new game- the game works fine but the games I copied from my 1tb drive do not load. When I copied the games from the 1tb drive to the 2tb drive I used the CLONE command in the WBFS manager. I wondering if I should have used the COPY command instead being that the new drive was bigger than the original? Any ideas or suggestions? Should I format the 2tb drive again and try copying all the games instead of cloning?

    Thanks

  19. Rob said
    Mar 24th, 2010 @ 4:51am

    I have a question – according to the HD compatibility list if you format a 2tb drive in FAT32 format instead of using the WBFS Manager then you will not have the 500 game limit. Has anyone tried this? Also, if I don’t use the WBFS Manager- do I just copy games from 1 drive to another just using windows copy and paste feature?

    Thanks

  20. Jason said
    Mar 24th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

    Reading up on the cloning, it appears that there may be an issue with cloning? You may want to try the “Add to Drive” option. I know I’ve used it in the past with some success. I don’t remember if you need to extract the ISO first or not, but try that and let me know if it works.

  21. andy said
    Mar 27th, 2010 @ 1:55pm

    Fixed my USB Loader GX loading issue on my 1.5TB WD drive that was listed as “compatible”. Here’s what happened and my fix.

    I got a new WD HD and formatted it as 1 big (1.5TB) WBFS partition. Tested the drive by loading a few original games to the hard drive via USB Loader GX from the Wii. Everything worked so I moved all my games from my old hard drive to the new one by using WBFS Manager. Once it finished, I tested the games that were moved from my old drive and none of them work! When I click on the game (on USB Loader GX) to play it, it just takes me back to the Wii main menu screen. The games that originally (manually) loaded from USB Loader GX, played with no issues.

    Here’s what I found out:

    Partition any hard drive over 1TB into multiple partitions. Don’t go beyond 999GB per partition since:

    1) You not be able to play your games if you move them over from another hard drive. My one big 1.5TB partition did not work and once I reformatted back to NTFS (took forever) and did 3 new partitions…everything worked. I made a 999GB WBFS, 451GB WBFS, and 10GB NTFS partition for art work and Wii emulators. This 10GB drive will also be used as a storage/backup for my SD card for disaster recovery.

    2) There is currently a 500 game limit on WBFS Manager. Some people say 500 games will be around 1TB, so partitioning your drive under 1 TB makes sense. If you do have 500 games and STILL have room, you can use your remaining this space by manually loading games via the USB Loader (via the Wii). If you want to maximize your storage space and still be under the 500 limit, try rearranging your big (large GB) games to your big partition.

    3) I would use the copy function instead of clone feature on WBFS Manager since you should test the process on a few games instead of moving all your games at once. Select a few games from the host drive (pick the games from the top of the WBFS list), copy them to your new drive, and THEN test the games on your Wii to see if they work before you move all of them with one big job!!! Why move all the games at the beginning if your test games don’t work in the first place? If your sample does work, select the remaining games and use the copy function.

    Hope these tips help out.

  22. dude named guy said
    Apr 4th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    I have a terrible delimea that really needs some help.
    I use my external hard drive for usb loader so I can play games that i have. All my discs are unreadable already but i have them on the drive.
    I had turned off my ocarina on the usb loader gx and tried playing a game, but nothing but black (this is normal for me so I just restart). but this time i go to usb loader it gives me:

    “No WBFS or FAT/NTFS partition found
    you need to select or format a partition
    (Select) (Format)
    (Return)”

    I select (select):

    “partition 1: 400.76 gb
    partition 2: cant be formated
    partition 3: cant be formated
    partition 4: cant be formated ”

    I select partition 1, and gives me a black screen with white letters saying “expection” at top and “reloading in 5 seconds…” then im taken to the wii menu.

    someone please help

  23. Jason said
    Apr 4th, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    Out of curiosity, why are all of your discs unreadable?

  24. Zoe said
    Apr 5th, 2010 @ 3:01pm

    Hi, cool instructions, i have read a few hundred times and think i am ready to go for it. I have homebrew used V1 bannerbomb as i am on version 3.2 so have to hit the home button to access bootmii, will this guide be ok with my set up. Also Q- i have followed the link cIOS38_rev14 and it is not available for DL just takes to another page. I can get a more up to date one. will this still work with this tutorial, i have google this installer aswell and keep going round in circles- have you got a reliable link please? thanks

  25. Jason said
    Apr 5th, 2010 @ 3:15pm

    Not sure why rev 14 is no longer available, but you could try using the latest version (cIOS38_rev19). I haven’t tested this version as I’m still running rev14, so doing so would be at your own risk. I assume the other steps would be the same.

  26. Zoe said
    Apr 6th, 2010 @ 1:49am

    Hi, thanks, i have just done a NAND so even if i totally screw it up i can do a restore? However, have not got a clue how fool proof this is! Thanks for the advise, zo

  27. Jason said
    Apr 6th, 2010 @ 11:50pm

    Yes. As long as you have BootMii and a saved backup you can restore. I’ve done it several times as I’ve accidentally bricked my system.

  28. Bryce said
    Jul 21st, 2010 @ 3:18pm

    does your external hd need to have a wall plug in and can you format any hd into Fat32

  29. Jason said
    Jul 21st, 2010 @ 3:22pm

    No, most USB hdds pull power from USB, and yes.

  30. jivy said
    Aug 23rd, 2010 @ 10:51pm

    Hi,
    I do upgrade to my wii but i forgot to backup NAND. where can i get the default NAND so that i can restore if my system have problem.
    Thankyou

  31. Jason said
    Aug 23rd, 2010 @ 11:03pm

    Each Wii’s NAND includes a key that is specifically tied to your system so it’s not exactly easy to do so, but there is a tool available.

    If your system isn’t already bricked and you’ve performed any of the steps, you’re probably okay. I will still make a backup ASAP so you’ll have a a fallback no matter what happens.

  32. armando said
    Sep 18th, 2010 @ 6:16pm

    im a newb to all of this, is there a way to save your mem card files/folders etc. to the external hd?

  33. Jason said
    Sep 19th, 2010 @ 11:07pm

    What do you mean? Are you talking about homebrew stuff?

    Yes and no. I don’t believe homebrew can read from the hdd as far as apps are concerned, so everything under the /apps/ folder will need to stay on the SD card. However, specific homebrew apps (such as emulators, ftp, etc.) may be able to read from the HDD.

  34. dave said
    Oct 24th, 2010 @ 4:04pm

    Here is a question. my HDD works on the Wii but only in one Port I believe this is because that port is powered. I can hook up my rock band set and play that through my wii on the same usb port but it will not work on the other port either! How can I play by rock band on the HDD?! AKA how can I use both USB ports?!

  35. Jason said
    Oct 26th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    @dave, you’ll either need to try and use a USB hub or use Hermes 222/223 instead of cIOS 249. Unfortunately my guide is a little outdated, so it needs some refresh as a lot of things have changed in the past year.

  36. gobokster said
    Oct 27th, 2010 @ 2:02am

    i believe this should suites your need IOS58 –

    http://hackmii.com/2010/08/the-usb2-release/

    me doesn’t have tme to test it yet .. just finish rollback to v4.0U

  37. danomite said
    Oct 29th, 2010 @ 7:07pm

    how do i delete wii games from my hard drive that i will not play, also i have emulator that i do not play i would like to get rid of as well. any help would be appreciated.

  38. evedmon said
    Nov 30th, 2010 @ 5:45pm

    so just to confirm i can move everything but the apps folder to the HDD and should be ok to go as far as running roms and such to the on the wii and running homebrew?

  39. Fiona said
    Dec 1st, 2010 @ 2:12pm

    Hi there, is it possible to run 2 hard drives, given that there are 2 usb ports in the wii??

  40. Jason said
    Dec 1st, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    @Fiona, I don’t think there is. Why would you need two hard drives?

    Besides, I think that CFG USB Loader only supports the far right USB port.

  41. Erica said
    Dec 19th, 2010 @ 10:57pm

    Hey Guys, I am having an issue, and any assistance would be appreciated. I have everything in the wii and hacked properly with cios v 4. now i have a wd passport gigs, and it won’t load with cfg, but when i use gx, it takes forever, gx tells me that it is a slow or difficult disc, and will eventually start up after ten minutes. What am I doing wrong? Do I need to upgrade the CIOS? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  42. Steven said
    Jan 26th, 2011 @ 6:36pm

    Your tutorial was very helpful. I have encountered one issue that I hope you can help with. Everything works great, however, once I power off the Wii and then power it back on again, my usbloader cannot find the hard drive. The drive is a Seagate and has a powersaver feature, so when the Wii is powered down, it goes to sleep. However, it is waking up when the wii is powered up. I am using USB Loader GX. It gives the message about waiting for a slow USB drive and has a countdown. If I unplug the power to the drive and power it back up during the countdown, then the loader finds the drive and runs correctly. I have even tried the option to not powerdown the wii but to put it in standby mode. In this case the drive never goes to sleep, but I have the same issue.
    Do you have any ideas on what I can do to fix this?

  43. shawn said
    May 7th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    hey jason im having alittle problem i was just wondering If u could help….I have a soft mod wii which has a ext hard drive but i can’t play any other soft ware like a cam or my rock band gear is there a way to use a USB spliter so i can use my gear again thanks ….

  44. john said
    May 21st, 2011 @ 6:44pm

    when i try to rip the game to my external hard drive it says not enough free memory. How do i get tid of some games i do not want so i can add more of the ones i do want?

  45. steven said
    May 22nd, 2011 @ 9:11am

    @Steven. I had the same problem. easy fix. unplug your hardrive from the wii, then plug it into the other harddrive slot. waalaa. If it still wont work transfer everything off ur hardrive.Format it and transfer everything back. HOpe that helps. Im new at this but it worked for me.:)

  46. Barb said
    Dec 28th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    I’m having the same problem as Shawn. I bought a usb splitter to play skylander’s spyro’s adventure but it doesn’t work. Any ideas ?? The external hd won’t work in the inside usb slot but neither does the usb key for the game. Why are there 2 usb slots on the wii if only one works ? Any idea how I can get both working in the one usb slot ?

  47. Pedro said
    Dec 30th, 2011 @ 10:40am

    Hi,i´ve bought a wd elements 1 TB and i want to format it to WBFS,i´m using USB LOADER GX,and a friend of mine told me i have first to reformat the hard drive to NTFS,then to FAT32 and finally to WBFS with WBFS Manager 3.0,i´m also usinf windows xp professional sp3.
    Can you help me troughout all the right steps not ot screw things up?
    Thanks

  48. Jason said
    Dec 30th, 2011 @ 10:45am

    @Pedro There’s no need to format drives as WBFS anymore. Recent versions of usb loader gx allow you to use FAT32 or NTFS. FAT32 will be more widely support by MAC/PC in case you want to use your hard drive for other things.

  49. Pedro said
    Jan 4th, 2012 @ 3:46am

    Thanks for the advice :)
    But i´m going to keep that version of Usb Loader GX,because it´s not my Nintendo and HHD,so i don´t want to screw things up.

  50. Dave said
    Jan 9th, 2012 @ 10:21pm

    Jason, I’ve soft modded before, but this time through I hit a snag. All steps went smooth except the formatting (I couldn’t format to FAT32), or usr the ext hd. Im using a Toshiba 500G, and just modded a 4.3U(blue model)
    when I load up usb loader gx it stalls during loading and my message reads ‘initialize usb device’
    What am I missing?? I’ve tried reformatting, a few times.
    Please any help is appreciated!

  51. Steve said
    Feb 15th, 2012 @ 6:36pm

    Can you email me the instructions written so that a brand new wii owner and very oignorant of what you are talking about can do this? I have read many blogs and everyone writes as though everyone knows what is being talked about, but i just do not…tell me exactly what to download, exactly how to put the files on a card, exactly what to do to get the hard drive attached and running, etc…thanks so much!!!

  52. Janelle said
    Mar 6th, 2012 @ 7:19pm

    Hi, I need a little bit of advice… My ex had put the usb loader and homebrew channel onto my wii. I have the external hard drive connected to the wii. I tried to back up one of my games onto the hard drive, and it told me the memory is full. I can ‘t figure out how to delete any of the games from it, as there are a few that we don’t play frequently. Regardless, I was wondering if I would be able to purchase an additional external hard drive and if it would work if I plugged it into the wii, without any additional work that needs to be done. I have tried to read through several tutorials, but it is all confusing and jibberish to me. Any advice, in very simple terms, would be greatly appreciated!!!

  53. Russell said
    Mar 13th, 2012 @ 3:06am

    any on luck how to use 2nd usb port. I would really appreciate as I am faced with the same issue. I would love to be able to use my other devices along with the HD i tried splitter and no luck. My HD has it’s own power source

  54. Anonymous said
    Mar 24th, 2012 @ 8:39pm

    My friend tried to do this (he did it for himself and others) on a WD Passport but he said the drive kept going to sleep and wouldn’t let him complete the process.. thoughts?

  55. Someone said
    Jul 8th, 2012 @ 1:25am

    Does this work with cIOS58 or does it have to be 38?

  56. liz said
    Nov 26th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    i have been using a hard drive to play games with for some time now, but for some reason twice now the games the whole lot have vanished the first time it happened i thought my daughter had formatted instead of downloading missing covers, but i don’t think she did, as it just happened to me i just put on the missing games after days of downloading to find in an instant them all gone, i have no idea why, so i hope some one can help ?

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