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Install a Wii Game Loader for Easy Backups and Fast Load Times

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We’ve shown you how to hack your Wii for homebrew software and DVD playback as well as how to safeguard and supercharge your Wii. Now we’re taking a peek at Wii game loaders so you can backup and play your Wii games from an external HDD.

Wii game loaders are a sub-class of Wii homebrew software designed to load games from an external source, typically a USB 2.0 external hard drive. (Some people use flash drives, but the cost to GB ratio on flash drives is still poor compared to external hard drives.)

What does this mean to you, the end user? It means that once you have hacked your Wii for homebrew software you can easily add in a loader and a cheap USB drive for game backups and speedy playback. How speedy? When loading a new level in Super Smash Bros. Brawl off the disc, for example, it can take up to 20 seconds or more; the same load time off a USB HDD is usually around 3-4 seconds. Check out the video below to see it in action if you need a little convincing:

It’s so cheap and easy to perform this hack (and the benefits of backing up your expensive games and enjoying faster load times are so big) there’s no reason not to do it.

What You’ll Need

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For this hack you’ll need the following items:

  • A Wii already modified to play homebrew software and with the Trucha patch IOS and cIOS installed. If you don’t have these things, start with our homebrew guide and then our guide on safeguarding and supercharging your Wii to get up to speed.
  • A copy of USB Loader GX. We recommend grabbing the AllinOnePack for ease of setup.
  • A USB external HDD. While we’ve never had any compatibility issues you can play it safe and browse this list of hard drives if you’re shopping for a new one and want to play it safe. The drive pictured above with the Wii-matching blue/silver/white color scheme is the FileMate 3.5” to USB 2.0 enclosure. It looks awesome sitting next to the Wii.
  • An SD card. (You should already have one if you’ve modded your Wii for homebrew.)
  • A copy of WBFS Manager if you wish to interact with and manage your Wii HDD from your Windows computer. This tool isn’t necessary unless you want to back your games up to another drive or to your computer.

Double check the list and make sure your Wii is modded for homebrew playback with the patched IOS and CIOS installed before proceeding.

Installing USB Loader GX and Setting Up Your Hard Drive2011-01-11_143225

Why USB Loader GX? There are more than a few USB loaders available but we selected USB Loader GX for this tutorial. USB Loader GX is user friendly, feature rich, and offers a good balance between usability and eye candy. Also, once you’ve installed one loader you’ve essentially installed them all so it won’t be much of a hassle to try out other loaders like the eye-candy-a-riffic WiiFlow.

First let’s take a peek at the contents of the AllInOnePack you downloaded from the USB Loader GX web site. If you don’t have your Wii SD card mounted on your computer now would be a good time to do so. Copy the following files from the ZIP file to your SD card: the entire \apps\usbloader_gx\ folder as well as \wad\USB Loader GX-UNEO_Forwarder_2.0.wad. Remember, keep the folder structure the same!

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Note: If you’re curious about the difference between a Channel and a Forwarder, we’ll explain here briefly. A forwarder is like a shortcut on the Wii System Menu that points at the app on the SD card. A channel is actually an application installed on the Wii. Installing the USB Loader GX channel (instead of the of the forwarder) takes up more system memory and allows for fewer customization options (and no cover art!) but you can play without an SD card in the Wii. Installing it as a forwarder is preferred as it allows you to save settings and download cover and disc art. If you’re still curious you can read a point-by-point comparison here.

Once you’ve copied the USB loader GX files over, it’s time to pop the SD card back in your Wii. Plug in your USB drive to the USB port on the back of the Wii. It’s important to use the USB port closest to the bottom of the Wii—in this case the bottom being the port near the rubber feet. The other USB port is reserved for games with USB accessories and you’ll run into errors if you try and use it.

Start up the Wii and run the Homebrew channel. Listed under your apps you’ll see USB Loader GX. If it isn’t there then you’ve failed to properly copy it to your /apps/ directory.

Once you’ve launched USB Loader GX it’ll prompt you, if this is your first time loading it with a new drive, to format it. Go ahead and format the drive in WBFS format. You could format it in other formats like FAT32 and NTFS but the benefits of doing so are few and the hassles are many. WBFS is the Wii’s custom format system and it’s best to stick with it.

At this point you’re ready to start backing up your games. You’ll never need to use a computer if you don’t want to. All the backing up and loading is done with the Wii disc drive and the external HDD. Pop in any of your game discs into the Wii while USB Loader GX is running. You’ll see a screen like this:

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Whenever you put a physical disc in the Wii drive while the loader is active it will prompt you to either Install or Mount (mounting will launch the game without copying it to the disc). Let’s install.

Notice anything peculiar? The game is only 0.5GB. You’ll find that the vast majority of Wii games are under 2GB in size with only a few cresting over into the 2-3GB territory and even fewer in the 4+GB zone (like Super Smash Bros. Brawl). Even a 200GB hard drive can hold more Wii games than you could even get around to playing.

Click OK and watch the transfer bar slide by, for a small game like Wii Sports Resort it should take only a minute or two.

Once you’ve copied your first game you might notice that it’s missing the cover art. When cover art is missing you just get a box cover with a question mark on it. That’s no fun, now is it? Press 1 on your Wiimote to access the Cover Download menu.

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Whether your get the normal covers or the 3D covers is a personal choice. We’ve used the 3D covers throughout this tutorial, they look pretty swanky. Make sure to download both the covers and the disc images if you want to see the disc art when you go to load a game, like so:

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Note: If you’re not connected to the internet when you try to download the covers and disc art you’ll get an error message with a URL directing you to a place you can manually download the covers. That’s a hassle though, so turn on your Wi-Fi if only for a moment and let it do the work of downloading and sorting the artwork for you. If you’ll be ripping a lot of discs at one time it’s worth waiting until the end to grab the cover art; it’ll grab all of it at once for you.

Installing the Forwarder


At this point in the game you’ve got everything you need to backup and play your games but it’s kind of a hassle to load the Homebrew Channel every time you want to load the USB Loader. To install the forwarder you’ll need a WAD manager of some sort, if you’ve been following along with all our of Wii tutorials you’ll already have the Multi-Mod Manager installed (if not, visit the supercharge tutorial and grab it from our tool pack).

Load the Homebrew Channel, launch Multi-Mod Manager, navigate to /wads/ and select the USB Loader GX forwarder wad for installation:

Once you’ve installed the WAD you’ll have a nice USB Loader GX icon on your Wii System Menu just like you saw in the video earlier in the tutorial (and the screenshot at the beginning of this section).


That’s it! Now you can suck games right up onto your hard drive, no mod-chip or hardware hacking required. The next time you spend $50 for a game you can unwrap it, copy it to the HDD, and then put the game away safely where your kids, idiot roommate, or destructive dog can’t turn your game into a coaster.  For an in-depth look at every button, setting, and toggle in USB Loader GX, make sure to check out the full Read Me file here.

Have an awesome loader to recommend or other Wii hack to share? Sound off in the comments and share the gaming goodness with your fellow readers.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/11/11

Comments (21)

  1. ph15h

    Now that USB Loader GX 2.0 is out, I am inclined to give it a try. I once used USB Loader GX for most of my backup needs, but for a long time, development was slow and quite buggy when it came to copying games to an FAT32 drive (an alternative option to formatting your hard drive to WBFS, allowing you to store other data on the drive besides backups). Copying retail discs to FAT32 used to give me problems and disc read errors. I currently use WiiFlow (a loader referenced/mentioned in your article) and can say that’s great in terms of stability too and its not all flash.
    *downloads USBloaderGX to take it for a spin. :D

  2. Seth

    Just did this myself a while back. Just wish I had a LAN adapter so I could see those nice covers…

  3. Josh

    Nice guide, although I prefer Configurable USB loader because of it’s regular updates, and ability to install (not just run) games from a friendly NTFS (or FAT32, or ext2) partition. Plus, I find WBFS format very buggy and not trustworthy for my expensive games. When I used WBFS, one game would crash and 3 other games would become corrupt. Still, a very user-friendly guide and something every wii owner should do.

  4. z_AML_z

    well I have an awsome wii hack to share…NOt about loaders but about channels…making your own custom channels!

  5. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Seth: Even without internet access to the Wii of any sort you can still get the covers… you’ll just need to download them manually from the Wii Database.

    Alternately you can hit up the torrents ‘n such and look for a big fat file pack with all the covers.

  6. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @Josh: I’m curious when you say “ability to install (not just run)”. Install to where? Do you mean that it lets you copy from drive to drive using the Wii?

  7. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @z_AML_z: Well don’t keep us in suspense now. What’s the hack? Share your custom channel creating lore. =)

  8. ADWheeler Photography

    My Wii is HardModded, do I need to bother with the Trucha patch IOS and cIOS?

  9. Shawn

    Would this enable me to play avi or mp4 videos through my Wii?

  10. Jason Fitzpatrick

    @ADWheeler Photography: You do actually, kind of annoying.

    The hard mod only affects the disc drive and what it will read or not read. This hack actually requires a software exploit to run unsigned code from the Wii itself (instead of merely bypassing a disc check on the physical drive like the hard mod does).

  11. ADWheeler Photography

    @Jason, thanks! Modding her tonight. Will be nice to not have to switch discs all the time. :-)

  12. Shortbuser

    Bewared. It is a slippery/scary awesome slope this article leads you down.

    This information may work at this time but as the Wii System Software is updated, Games continue to be released and the Loader software continue to be updated this information will be out of date and possibly not functional. Usually the really smart people at WiiHacks.com will have a work around but it will take time, testing and patience to get new games/features to work.

  13. z_AML_z

    @jason: I posted how to do it but it is curretly waiting moderation?

  14. Josh

    @Jason, by saying “ability to install (not just run)” I mean that no other loader (that I know of) is able to install wii games from the disc drive to an NTFS partition. I load my games from NTFS because of it’s stability, and since Configurable USB loader lets me install to NTFS as well, it works out great for me.

    @Shortbuser, at this time the only game that I know of that doesn’t work with USB loaders is COD3. That’s because of the way the game is structured, it keeps looking for a disk in the drive and crashes. All other games are able to be loaded, despite Nintendo’s attempts. I don’t think we have anything to worry about. ;)

  15. bob

    where can i find games?

  16. Jeremy

    @bob Best Buy sells them.

  17. bostonblah

    ok i have a few question,1 )when you rip a game with ubsloadergx or wiiflow of cfg loader,you say it rips to the ext usb hdd,in wbfs right?not an iso,so does that mean i dont have to “scrubb”my games to get them into the smallest possible size ,so they take as little room as possible?
    2 )do all the loaders load from a ntfs partition?and is it no longer needed to make 2 partitions on your hdd 1 fat32 for wads like vc and wiiware games,emulators and such,and is it more risky to use a non wbfs hdd?like how does it work?do you need to nstall an extra ios or is included in the loader or do you use a program on your pc to partiton the drive a certain way?is their more of a brick risc i mean?

    3)and can any loaders load/play games from a hdd not connected to the usb,but in a computer on my network instead?or on say a NAS drive?i have a new linksys/cisco dualband n router,and it has a usb on the back for connecting a network drive,so could i load games from a hdd connected from their ?i thought i read that games could be loaded from /over a network,if which loader/s can do it,and would it be faster from a NAS hdd or one in a pc in a computer on my network?

  18. bostonblah

    i also have a few questions about triforce and virtual nand,like can you load games and apps installed on the triforce virtual nand,wads and vc games and what not directly from the regular wii system menu ,if you use a forwarder for each app you want to load directly from the wii system menu ,and not by going into the triforce channel from the wii system menu and loading them from there,and also if you can and you install the forwarders to load apps and such that are on the triforce virtual nand,then do the forwarders install and take up memory on your real nand or on the virtual nand on the usb hdd?
    when you create the virtual nand on your hdd with triforce,i assume it differentiates between the actual solid state nand chip in your wii and the virtual one on your hdd,not combining the 2 into 1 total amount of memory but 2 separate ones ,like having 2 nands ,not just 1 big 1 is that right?i ask because i would like to be able to install unlimited or limited only by the size on my virtual nand partition ,forward channels on my wii system menu for vc and wiiware games and homebrew or whatever,and be able to launch everything directly from the regular wii system menu,without having to go to the wii system menu and then to the triforce app/channel ,and then launch them from the menu there,but if the forwarders to do that have to be on the actual nand, than eventually it will run out of space,even if i dont install the actual channels ,and just use the forwarders instead,but if the forwarders can go on the virtual nand and be able to launch programs directly from the regular wii system menu than i could do it,that would be great
    so does anyone have any experience with triforce that can help me out on this?
    and also maybe point me to a good tutorial video?

  19. scooby

    hi,
    I’m trying to put the loader on my wii but without success… I can’t figure out what i’m doing wrong. My Wii has the homebrew channel and i’ve put the loader at the root. when i start my wii, the loader app appears but when i click on it it comes to a black screen and i have to restart the wii manualy. Can anyone help me ? Thanks

  20. atete

    I have the same problem as “scooby”, any info?

  21. endanjered

    I have the same problem as “scooby and “atete”
    I’d appreciate some help
    Thanks

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