The Wii is great for foolish-looking gaming, but with a little work it can be a great all-around entertainment machine. Photo by JoshBerglund19 and licensed under CC BY 2.0 The Nintendo Wii is a fun, cheap choice for a video game system, but it isn’t usually thought of as a media powerhouse. But with a few fairly simple hacks, it can be the hub of all of your entertainment needs. 

If you don’t have a game system yet for your dorm room, you won’t have much trouble picking up a used Wii for under $100 on eBay, but a new system (in black!) bundled with Mario Kart can be had now for under $150, so that might be the way to go. You’ll also be needing a small SD card; 2GB should be plenty. For certain applications you’ll also want a Gamecube controller for navigation. There’s no reason you should spend more than $160 or so on this project. 

Disclaimer – This walkthrough involves hacking a Wii and installing unauthorized software. Though I’ve never had any issues, it’s possible that you could end up with a bricked Wii. Attempt at your own risk.

Step 1: Install Homebrew

To take full control of your hardware, you’ll need to exploit a software vulnerability that allows you to install unapproved applications. It’s basiclally the same idea as jailbreaking an iPhone or rooting and Android device. There are several ways to do this, and Wiibrew.org has a comprehensive list with walkthroughs of every known exploit.

Most exploits involve loading a file into a specific game, but the recently released “Letterbomb” exploit won’t force you to purchase a game. Be careful though, because it’s only compatible with the latest 4.3 system menu update. Just check the system menu in your device settings and update as necessary before attempting this, as using the wrong exploit with the wrong system menu version could result in a bricked Wii.

Once you’ve exploited the system, you’ll be able to install the Homebrew Channel; the hub of all the apps you’ll be installing. 

Step 2: Install Homebrew Browser

You’ll notice that a new “channel” has been added to the standard Wii homescreen. The Homebrew Channel is going to be the launching point for all of your new applications. But how do we install them?

Well, you can check out WiiBrew’s comprehensive app directory, and install everything off of an SD card, but that’s a little tedious. To save some time, the first thing you install should be the Homebrew Browser. Homebrew Browser is basically an app store for your Wii that allows you to install a ton of free apps without ever touching your SD card.

You can navigate and sort apps by type, popularity, and age, and you’ll have no trouble finding plenty of fun stuff to experiement with.

Coming Soon – Next Steps

Now that you have the essentials installed, try installing and running a few apps. Check back later this week for Part 2 of this guide, which includes my picks for watching DVDs on your Wii (yes, you can do that), turning the system into an all-in-one media center, and even emulating all the old school Nintendo games we grew up on.