Tips for modding the Wii safely.

In response to a number of mod jobs that I have seen lately which haven’t gone so well, I decided it was time to make an addendum to other Wii Modchip Installation guides. The chip that will be covered here is the WiiKey, although others are quite similar, and the tips listed here would apply as well. This is a work in progress, but it touches on all of my main points. I will try and add pics later, if possible.

[Note that this guide does not address new Wiis that need have legs cut on the Panasonic chip on the Wii’s DVD drive. If you have one of those and don’t already know what you’re doing, find a local installer (or one to ship it to)]

First, what are my credentials? What makes me qualified to give this advice?

I do not have a PhD or even an AA in electronics or any related field (however I do have a MA in Communications, but that is beside the point). Hell, I didn’t even have real soldering experience before I modded my first Wii.

So how did I start and why should you listen? I researched (then researched some more, so you won’t have to) and found a number of tricks which I have worked into my method. There are a lot of resources out there, but I found the Wii hacking forum on gbatemp.net to be most useful. I then went out and bought the materials and found an old video card to test my soldering skills, practiced, and here was the result.

By the way, here are some install pics at gbatemp. Use them to get your creative juices flowing.

Materials:

Finding the correct materials is very important! Many people attempt the job with inadequate materials that they already have laying around the house, and they end up burning pads off of the Wii. When using the correct materials and with practice, there should be no excuse for this.

Most of the materials for installation can be found at your local Radio Shack. They sell some very thin 30awg wire there, and it comes in patriotic colors: red, white or blue. This works great. However, there are a few key items that make the difference between great and horrible mod jobs, and this isn’t really one of them.

Radio Shack sells a 15w soldering iron which is carried in local stores. Why is this better than the 30w one that you were going to use? The lower wattage makes you less likely to burn off a pad. It essentially gives you more time, allowing you to be more precise. With the $9 pricetag, there is no excuse not to pick one up. The flat end of the tip also is very helpful, but this will be discussed later.

The second item that helps things go smoothly is flux. Many people who do this for the first time have never heard of flux. I myself was one of them. What is it? It’s a white, pasty substance that acts as a catalyst for the soldering process. Using flux is kind of like primering something before you paint it – it’s just good practice, and the result will be better. I couldn’t find flux at my local Radio Shack (they were out), but I was able to find it at Home Depot. It came in a tube, and even came with some free solder (which was mighty thick). You’ll also need a toothpick for application, I don’t think they sell these at RadioShack though. You’re on your own on that one!

Another thing that will make sure that you have a clean modification is an Xacto blade. If you’re clumsy, or don’t care about the stickers on your Wii, and don’t mind if it is obvious that it has been tampered with, then skip this part.

And to make sure that you keep organized, and don’t end up with extra screws, etc, find yourself a cupcake pan (or other sorting device) to put all screws and pads in while you’re modding.

A little bit of double sided tape is recommended as well. You will also need some electrical tape.

The last thing should go without saying, but because some people insist on trying without it – it must be covered. You will need a TRIWING screwdriver. Don’t listen to your friend that says you can use a little phillips head. You might be able to do so, but your screws will look like crap, and you might end up having to drill them out (or if you’re a complete retard, burning through your Wii’s plastic – I wish I could find the thread about that guy). You will not be able to find this locally. And if you can, it won’t be worth the hassle. Many assume that that the bit set at Harbor Freight will work, but it will not. Although it includes triwing drivers, they are FAR too large. Just order it with your WiiKey. Or you can order it here, but note that it’ll take a couple of weeks to get.

Method:

Follow the instructions found elsewhere to take the Wii apart. I used this guide – it’s not the greatest, but it gets the job done. Google can help you find others.

My tip here is to use the Xacto blade to take off the stickers on the bottom and side of the Wii. However, if you don’t have a steady hand, you’ll have to weigh the possibility of scratching your Wii against having nice looking stickers. As long as you slide it underneath gently, it should be easy to remove them, and allow them to be re-affixed to the unit.

You don’t want to use the blade on the rubber feet. You will just end up cutting them and possibly the unit as well. Use your fingernails. The rubber parts are tough, they can take it. Just be gentle, dig under, and pull em up. This can hurt a bit if you’ve just cut your fingernails though (speaking from experience, of course). However, it’s still the best way.

Also, this is where your cupcake pan comes in handy. For each step, use a new hole. This keeps items in order and makes sure that they go back where they belong.

Once the unit is disassembled, and the drive removed, it’s time to ready the wires and chip.

First, figure out where you want to mount the chip. In my opinion, the best place is in the black pocket near where the ribbon cable connects. This picture shows what I am talking about. Once you have found that location, trim a piece of double sided tape, and use it to affix the chip there. Believe me, it is much easier to solder onto the chip after it has been affixed. Soldering something that weighs one gram or less is tough when it’s moving around!

Measure how long the wire will need to be (and give it a little bit of slack, just incase) and cut it. You can use scissors to do the cutting, as this stuff is quite thin. It will then need to be stripped. You want to strip the tiniest bit off of the wire as possible. Literally, you should only need to strip off about the thickness of your fingernail. If you strip off more, it will leave exposed wire that can potentially short out and screw things up. It is my belief that this is one of the reasons that a lot of installs mysteriously don’t work. This is especially important for the four connections on the DVD board that are extremely close to one another.

Next, bring out the flux! Use your toothpick to put a tiny bit of flux on each point that will be soldered. The points that need to be soldered for the WiiKey are covered in the installation manual here. You don’t want to smear it across the area, but rather have a dot on each point. If you get too much on there, or need to shape what you’ve put on, use the other side of the toothpick. Make sure you put it on all twelve points, six on the chip and six on the DVD board.

Once that is done, you can start heating the soldering iron. Be careful though, the stand that this iron comes with is crap. I personally used a cardboard box on my table just in case it slipped off.

While it’s warming, set your spool of solder so a point sticks up and out. This way, you can just put the iron against it without having to touch the solder or spool. Also make sure you have an available glob of flux (mine came in a tube, so I had to put out a little glob on my cardboard, others come in tubs, so it isn’t necessary).

Now that you’re ready, dip the tips of one of your wires lightly into the flux, and then put your soldering iron up to the solder that you have sticking out for your convenience. Burn up a little so it forms a tiny (yes, very tiny, you do not need very much) globe at the end of the soldering iron. This is why the flat tip of the recommended iron is best, it will hold the solder at the end.

At that point, you’re ready to hold the wire to the board, using your dot of flux as a reference, and then very briefly, put the solder on the tip of the iron to the point. There is no necessity of holding it there, the flux allows it to flow to exactly where it needs to be, and the solder joint is instantly made.

At that point, you’re done with your first point, repeat eleven times and you’re set! I recommend starting on the tiny points on the DVD board, but I can understand wanting to do the larger points on the WiiKey first. I personally start with the tiny point that sticks out and forms an L with the three other points, then move to the one next to it, and down the line.

I prefer to solder both ends of each wire before going onto the next, but this is personal preference. Some may find it easier to do all points either on the chip or the board, but care must be taken to not cross wires!

Once this is done, use a little bit of electrical tape between the smaller connections on the DVD board, if there is any exposed wire. You will need to cut very short pieces to fit in-between them. I call this method shingling. If you can’t see any exposed wire, you should be fine, but it couldn’t hurt.

Then put a bigger strip across your soldered points on both the chip and the board. This insulates them from further contact and also makes sure that they will not be moving.

You might think it’s time to put it all back together. Well it kinda is, but I’d recommend putting the battery back in the unit (the first thing that you take out when disassembling) and connecting it and making sure that it works. You may need to reconnect the faceplate, or otherwise use your fingernail to push in the power button. The unit will work fine in this state.

Allright! You should be good to go at this point! Put it back together, run the WiiKey setup DVD if you want to set it to be region free, and you will also need to reset your Everybody Votes Channel. For some reason, when you mod (I believe it is because you remove the small backup battery) it screws up this channel. Looks like bad design to me. No one has been able to fix it without a reset, unfortunately.

If you have any comments, please leave them! I know that this needs more pictures, and I’ll post some up one of these days when I get a chance.

And if you think this is all too much for you, check your local craigslist page to see if there are any modders. Or search on gbatemp.net for a local one. If you’re in Central Florida, I might even be able to help you out. Just leave a comment about it!

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