The Wii homebrew scene is a rapid moving entity. New developments are always being made, and new fun bits of ones and zeros are always getting released.
I decided to write a beginners guide to homebrew, detailing what kind of things it can let you do, as well as collect together some useful links.
What is homebrew?
Homebrew, in regard to consoles, is code that has been made by 'bedroom developers'. These are often very talented individuals and groups, and everything they do is without support from the platform holder (in the case of the Wii, Nintendo). These are hackers in the purest sense of the word, they push hardware and software to do things that the original creators never intended.
It is not illegal, you own your Wii, and it is entirely up to you what code you run on the hardware you own. Running unlicensed code on your Wii technically voids your warranty, however, it is possible to remove any trace of having done so in the event of hardware problems.
What can I do with homebrew on the Wii?
Some of the functions that having a homebrew enabled Wii can let you do are:
Customization of the Wii System menu
Region free gaming (for both Wii and Gamecube games)
USB Loading (more on that later)
Media Centre Capabilities
And a bunch of other neat little tricks
I'll give a rough guide to how all these work later in the guide.
How do I get homebrew up and running on my Wii?
Running homebrew on your Wii is a fairly simple procedure, but it is not without risks. If you do something wrong, you could brick your system. As long as you follow this guide to the letter, you should not encounter any trouble.
First, you need the following:
Permission from whoever owns the Wii
An SD card, and a way of putting data on it (SD Card reader)
An internet connection (which I assume you have)
The first step is to install 'The Homebrew Channel' on your Wii. This is a channel that displays on your Wii System menu which will allow you to run executables off an SD card. Essentially where you can boot homebrew from. You only have to install this once, then it will be saved in the console until you decide to remove it.
Nintendo won't just let you install anything on your Wii, so you need a hack, a way to bypass Nintendo's security on the console. Luckily, such a thing exists. Originally, you needed to use the Twilight Hack, which used a vulnerability in The Twilight Princess. Now, however, a hack exists that requires only an SD card, called "bannerbomb". Head to the bannerbomb website, and download the most recent version. This will let you run the installer for the Homebrew Channel, which you can grab here from bootmii.
Once you have downloaded the hackmii installer, you need to put both it and bannerbomb on your SD card. You need to put the folder "private" on your SD card, then the file "installer_beta1.elf" on your SD card, and rename it "boot.elf". Should look something like this:
Where "J" is whatever drive letter your SD card is.
Once you have this set up, you are ready to install the homebrew channel. Stick the SD card in the console, then got to the "Wii" menu, then "Data Management", then "Channels", then "SD".
It will then ask you if you want to "Load boot.dol/elf?", which you do.
Then the Hackmii installer will boot. Follow the on screen instructions for "install The Homebrew Channel". This is really simple, but if you have any problems, let me know.
You can delete everything off the SD card if you like now, you have everything on the console you need to run homebrew off the SD card.
The hardest part is now done. You should see The Homebrew Channel on your Wii's system menu, meaning you have a homebrew enabled Wii, congratulations!
How do I run homebrew applications?
Now that you have got the Homebrew Channel installed, you can run any homebrew you want from your SD card. To get applications to run, you need to create a folder called "Apps" on the SD card, then create a new folder for each application (named whatever you want the application to show up as in the Homebrew channel), then put the .dol or .elf file in that folder, and rename it to "boot.dol" or "boot.elf". Applications often come with a "meta.xml" and "icon.png", these contain the application description, and icon. They aren't essential, but make it prettier and can give you useful information.
Then stick the SD card in the Wii, and run The Homebrew Channel, and the application should show up.
What can I do from here?
Well, there are a bunch of fun things you can do, but first, I suggest you do a few things to customize your Wii.
Preloader is a homebrew application which lets you make some changes to the system menu. Nothing major, but it is definitely a good idea to do. If you plan to play imported games on your Wii it is definately recomended, because one of the ways you can damage your Wii is to update the system menu to a newer version from an imported disc. Trying to install a USA system menu on a PAL Wii will damage it, but Preloader can prevent this.
Grab it from here.
Once you have put "preloaderv0.29-cred.dol" on your SD card (in the folder "SD:\Apps\Preloader"), then renamed it to "boot.dol", you can put the SD card in the Wii, and launch preloader from the Homebrew Channel.
Follow the on screen instructions, and go to "Systemmenu Hacks"
I recomend selecting the following Hacks:
Replace Healthwarning with Back Menu (this removes the stupid Health warning screen from the boot process)
Region Free Wii games
Skip Disc Update Check (means that games will no longer be able to update the system menu without your permission)
Region Free Gamecube Games with video mode patched
Remove NoCopy protection (lets you copy saves to SD Card that you are not normally allowed too)
Move Disc Channel (lets you move the disc channel with A + B, like other channels).
Then "Save Settings".
You can now play imported Wii and Gamecube games from the disc channel, and have a few other neat tricks enabled too.
If you want, you can also go to "settings", and turn "ignore standby setting" to "on". This will make the Wii go to the "Red" Off mode by default, instead of the "Orange" standby mode. Uses less power.
Then Save settings and reboot the Wii.
Now for fun toys
You have done all of the hard work now, so I think it is time to grab some fun homebrew toys. I've put together links to some of the most useful and fun homebrew about, but if you think of anything good that is missing, let me know.
If you have a spare USB hard drive, it is definitely worth thinking about using one as a USB Loader for your Wii.
A USB Loader lets you instead of booting games from the disc, boot them from a USB hard drive/pen drive. This has several advantages, not having to swap discs/carry all your games with you (particularly useful for me moving between university and my parents fairly regularly), quicker load times, and you don't have to keep your games in the same place as your console (mine are stored under my bed, out of the way now).
You have to rip all your games onto the drive on your console, which takes a while, but is well worth it in my opinion. It only supports partitions up to 500gb, you can use a bigger drive if you want, but will only be able to use 500gb of it for Wii games. Games vary in size quite a bit, but average around 2/2.5gb.
I have tried a few different USB Loaders, but by far my favorite is USB Loader GX. For more information on it, head to their website here.
There are a range of homebrew media players for the Wii, that let you play videos either from the SD card or a USB Hard drive. I prefer GeexBox.
There are ways of playing DVD Videos on the Wii, but I honestly recommend against it. I have not heard conclusively one way or the other whether it does damage to the disc drive or not, and I am sure you all have other things to play DVDs on.
A pretty decent port of Quake 1 to the Wii, you can either use the Shareware version for free, or the full version from your original discs.
Commander K. Wii
A port of the first three Commander Keen games. A tonne of fun.
There is a fantastic range of classic adventure games that can be played on the Wii via ScummVM Wii. The excellent Beneath a Steel Sky is freeware, and you can also play the likes of Sam & Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle, Monkey Island 1+2, Day of the Tentacle, The Dig, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and more.
So that's it. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. I will try to keep this guide updated and relevant.
Wiibrew - A wiki full of homebrew software
Boring essential legal stuff:
SavyGamer and LewieP accept no responsibility for any damage caused to your Wii, SD card, other hardware, or limbs when following this guide.
Bionic Commando Rearmed, Xbox 360 - 400 MS Points
Was half price on PS3 before, now is on the 360 too.
Cheers to GovernmentYard for the tip off.
Tomb Raider: Underworld, Xbox 360 - £9.95 delivered
Unreal Tournament III, Xbox 360 - £9.95 delivered
Overlord: Raising Hell, PS3 - £8.95 delivered
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, PC - £2.99 delivered
Ridge Racer 6, Xbox 360 - £6.95 delivered