Notes from inside your Wii

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April 23rd, 2009 by bushing · 73 Comments

I’ve been asked whether installing the Homebrew Channel (or Twilight Hack or whatever) will void the warranty on a Wii. I’ve generally said something like “Technically, yes, but I doubt they will enforce that.” This seemed reasonable, given some of the anecdotes I’ve heard — stories of people ruining their drives with a soldering iron and still getting free repair work done under warranty, etc. I’ve also said that if a Wii is bricked (and won’t boot), then they have no way of actually checking to see what is installed on the Wii — and I still believe that to be true, at least most of the time.

I’ll be the first to admit that was wrong, given some recent evidence:

warranty letter

My German’s pretty bad, but I see “…. Softwarehack … EUR 210”. That seems awfully excessive, given that the price of a new Wii is EUR 250, no?

I would write this off as an isolated incident — maybe someone installed some truly awful warezloading hack. However, I was sent the following email through an anonymous remailer last month, and it would seem to support the invoice above:

From: (deleted)
Date: 2009/02/11
Subject: Handling of modified Wii

Dear Sirs,

please be informed about the following change, it is effective from start of Februay on. Sory for my late notice as I have been sick. This change is confirmed by NOE President.

Whenever you get a console for Repairs and find a Homebrew channel or any other not official Nintendo or unauthorized software (Backup Channel, Gecko OS, etc). on it, this repair is out of warranty. If the defect is related to the modication or not, is of no interest for us, anytime we find unauthorized software, it is out of warranty.

The consumer needs to be informed about this and needs to agree that in case we repair the product he will lose this unauthorized content and get an updated Wii Product back. If the consumer do not agree, you shall not repair and send the product back.

Legal is preparing the letter which you can send to the consumer. Please note the price will be higher for such a Repair as well, as soon as it is fixed. Approx 18O€-21O€, but please wait for our documents. For the current situaiton you can use a price of 120€ for
such kind of issues.

We might change the warranty wording as well to make it more clear, even if the current one is enough. In addition yes we are aware of a small legal risk to be claimed on this in the court, but NOE more than willing to take the risk. We need to stop the Homebrew-Channel now.

Additional to this we checked with NCL to get a better Check-Disc to make your work more efficient and easier. (deleted) will keep you udated on this. Please contact him as well if you need more discs of version 1, as EVERY Wii returned for repairs needs to be checked. Please note the Ver.1 is not as good as expected so manual check
might be needed. (deleted) will share more info on this tomorrow.

(deleted) will share more information about this topic at the coming DSi training and show you some samples, as we want to use this meeting opportunity even if it is not DSi related. Please let me know ifyou have further questions? Please inform your team members accordingly.

Thanks a lot for your understanding and support.
Best Regards

(All typos and misspellings are quoted verbatim; the only edits are (deletions))

This is unacceptable. I was under the impression that most out-of-warranty repairs were in the $75 – $100 range — and this email came with a note saying that the most expensive (common?) repair is to replace the drive for 90€.

Should Nintendo have to pay to repair hacked Wiis under warranty? Maybe not, but they have no (moral) right to gouge customers out of spite for having the HBC installed.

This actually poses a technical dilemma for us with BootMii. As currently designed, BootMii looks for an SD card when you boot your Wii, and if it finds the card and the right file, it will execute that file. Otherwise, there’s no way to tell it’s installed. Unfortunately, we’re currently battling a bug where some SD cards are never recognized in some Wiis. (We’ve been mailing SD cards back and forth around the world to try to figure this out!) With a USBGecko, you get some nice debug spew, but many people won’t have one of those, and if we release BootMii without fixing this bug, some percentage of people will find that it simply doesn’t work. There won’t be any way for them to tell whether the installation of BootMii failed, or if it’s just their SD card. So, we put in a little drive-LED flash that happens in case of error.

I still maintain that a bricked Wii — one that boots to a black screen, or won’t boot discs — can’t be examined enough to tell what was installed on it … unless you have BootMii installed, in which case the drive LED will flash and suddenly cost you 200€.

We’ll probably have to come up with some clever way to disable that flash once you are confident that it has been installed correctly, but we really shouldn’t have to do this. It’s worth pointing out that Apple won’t cover hacked phones under warranty — but A) they don’t charge you a penalty for them, and B) in 99% of all cases, you can click one button in iTunes and restore the device to its original state, so there’s no way they can even tell.

Please try to keep your comments mature and on-topic.

Tags: Wii

73 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Slowking // Apr 25, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Bushing, you say nintendo a well in their rights to void the warrenty of Wiis with homebrew installed. That is simply not true, at least in Germany. 2 years of warrenty are guaranteed by law and only if you cause the device to be defected (willfully, neglect or using harmfull software) is the warrenty voided.
    So if I have the Homebrew Channel installed and my Wiis drive is defect the warrenty is NOT voided, or if it got bricked through a Nintendo Update, or if it blew a fuse.
    So no the law is not on Nintendos side here and I believe it is the same case in most european countrys.

  • 2 Wack0 // Apr 25, 2009 at 1:38 am

    ow… and this happens after that guy from nintendo (i think in norway ?) sent that mail saying that he agreed with homebrew ?

  • 3 disorganizer // Apr 25, 2009 at 1:59 am

    maybe we miss the true point here:
    no doubt that the warranty is voided in most countries when you tamper / open up / modify the system somehow (inlcuding homebrew).

    the problem is that nintendo is charging the full retail price for the replacement wii despite the fact that the problem could most of the time be extremely easy to fix with almost no cost (excluding shipping etc).

    even if they completely exchange the hardware with a refurb or even new console the cost for nintendo are not as high as they charge for the repair.

    and that is the most disturbing point here, seeing that even out of warranty cost for replacement console are at about 50-70% of the retail price (depending on console type) at nintendo at the moment.

  • 4 daniel c w // Apr 25, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Apparently this information is already spreading, which is good.

    But it is also treated as a fact, which is bad.

  • 5 warewolf.livejournal.com/ // Apr 25, 2009 at 7:25 am

    I recently sent my Wii in for an out-of-warranty drive mechanism replacement – they charged me whatever the out-of-warranty repair bill for replacing the drive mechanism was. Nothing more.

    My repair was done at a third party repair facility, not specifically Nintendo of America. I had the Home Brew Channel installed, but it wasn’t visible from the first (leftmost) system menu screen.

    My repair cost me $75 to replace the mechanism, and then $change for shipping etc. The grand total was $82.50. That price seemed reasonable enough to me for my laziness of not wanting to hunt down a replacement drive mechanism on my own, and do the swap myself.

    They left the HBC alone and didn’t appear to update any IOSes.

  • 6 someone // Apr 25, 2009 at 9:56 am

    @ tavueni 47:

    “At the end of the day, we all have bought Wii’s so we are customers so I think they ideally need a more tactile approach for Nintendo like:

    “Sorry dude. You’re machine/software has been tampered with therefore voiding your warranty. We can either send it back to you duff or dispose of it. We can fix it for you but this is the cost. You choose and let us know accordingly.”

    That’s exactly what they’ve said in the bill. The problem is the price. And the fact they’re charging it even if the problem wasn’t caused by a softmod.

  • 7 wowfunhappy // Apr 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Would it be possible to write some sort of software- risky or not- which would remove all traces of homebrew? Perhaps a complete Nand restore?

    This is one of those rare cases where it would be worth the risk of bricking.

    That way, if someone’s Wii drive dies, for example, they can run the software and then send the Wii back to Nintendo for repair. Sure, the user would loose all the data, which would be a total pain, but it would be better than the alternative…

  • 8 cr08 // Apr 25, 2009 at 11:10 am

    @HyperHacker: Maybe, but it seems like the targeted group here is those who have absolutely no idea wtf they are doing and brick their wii’s -BY- the ‘illegit’ software in question, often being shady, untested homebrew wads. And if the code is bad enough to kill the hardware, it’s still their fault and Nintendo is in the right to say ‘sorry, no go. You can go buy a new one at full price.’ fhyrin’s post at comment #27 makes complete sense in this case. Any company worth their salt is not going to even attempt any kind of repairs when the hardware was used well outside of it’s intended purpose.

    Now while a normal hardware failure that would even happen on a stock wii -should- be covered without this extra cost thrown in, I say tough toodles if they hit you with the huge bill when they find any homebrew apps on there. Everyone who runs homebrew on their wii has indirectly agreed that stuff like this is possible and there is no recourse than to fess up or pay up when something goes wrong. Period.

    Also, I HIGHLY doubt they’d take the painstaking time and work to desolder a nand chip with a large number of VERY tiny pins and risk damaging it just to check if MAYBE there is a sign of homebrew on there. It is just not worth the time for a Ninty repair shop to do something like that so right off the bat something like that is out of the question. The only way they would find out, -usually-, is if they can get their repair discs to boot on the thing and then the automated software contained therein does the dirty work of scanning the system for homebrew.

  • 9 hochhausmaedchen // Apr 25, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    That is wrong. In Germany your vendor must give you a 2 year warrenty, but this has nothing to do with Nintendo, and after 6 monthes you have to proof that the defect was caused by the vendor or manufacturer. If your disc drive would break, then you could not proof, this defect is not the result of a “backup” launcher and bad DVD-Rs. So you would have no warrenty.

    I do not really care about this costs, because I have my NAND key and a backup of my Wii NAND, and an Infectus mod chip is much cheaper than 210€. A hardware defect may be a problem, but I never had one with a Nintendo device (even my NES is still running), and I know a German mod chip vendor, who replaces a defect Wii by a new device for just 130€.

    But it would be nice to have a tool to remove the homebrew channel, bootmii, preloader and most of the evidences of previously installed homebrew. Such a tool could also delete the statistics of played channels or brick the wii, since Nintendo would repair it for less than 210€.

  • 10 someguy // Apr 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I guess I’m not sending my Wii to Nintendo anymore. I stupidly bricked my Wii customizing my System Menu a few weeks ago.

    So, um.. will Bootmii (boot2) be installable via the Infectus2? Was the Infectus the nand programmer that was being talked about in the other articles? I want to make sure before buying one since the team behind it doesn’t seem to have a great grasp on what they’re doing.
    I’ve been doing my research and there seems to be corruption problems while dumping the nand. Does this happen with writing, too?
    I know you must be busy, sorry for asking so many questions, (and for posting this in the wrong section, but maybe you don’t check the old articles?)

  • 11 rfc1394 // Apr 25, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    As TexasDex stated (and was correct), declaring a software modification to void the hardware warranty is illegal under Magnuson-Moss in the U.S. People who mod their cars to improve performance do things like replace the exhaust with bigger pipes or a new muffler or other non-approved equipment. This voids the warranty on the exhaust system; it does not void the warranty on the engine or power train unless the change to the exhaust also in some fashion damaged the engine or power train.

    Also, if the claimed E-mail is true, it would represent an attempt by Nintendo to prevent competitors from creating alternative software for the Wii. This may be a violation of the Antitrust laws as it is attempt to use their market power to deny a competitor access to this market. If Nintendo also makes software for the Wii, an attempt to prevent competitors from doing the same is almost certainly an anti-competitive practice in violation of the Sherman, Robinson-Patman or Clayton antitrust acts; I haven’t looked at that law recently so I’m not sure which would apply. It might also violate equivalent E.U. antitrust directives.

  • 12 Isakill // Apr 26, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    @rfc1394 and TexasDex:
    using the car as an example was PERFECT at being wrong, especially the exhaust thing. Mainly because any manufacturer can find a way to make any modification to their product void it’s warranty. PERIOD.
    Their argument will be Thus and has been mentioned before. “We didn’t sell that piece of equipment to you in that shape.” so both of you are wrong in thinking that the magnuson-moss law could possibly protect you. all laws have loopholes that Ninty WILL jump through.

    I agree that if any of us does ANY mod to our Wii soft or hard should void it. But gouging is wrong.

  • 13 Red_Breast // Apr 27, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Regarding that Magnuson law it would be interesting to see how it played out in court.
    Wouldn’t the court need proof that HBC hadn’t affected whatever was causing problems with the Wii?
    Anyway it’s quite interesting that Ninty are aware of the legal risk.

    “In addition yes we are aware of a small legal risk to be claimed on this in the court, but NOE more than willing to take the risk.”

    I’d love to see such a court case. Even if BigN won it would show them in bad light as they were aware they were doing something which, from what I can tell, they were not entirely sure of it’s legal standing.

    @cr08 You’re not the only one with a pet peeve. Those types wind me up and I get wound up by the fact that they wind me up.
    Maybe I’m a little lucky in that I’m not interested in wanting to ‘back-up’ any Wii games. I only own 3 and one of those is because it was needed (Zelda). I haven’t come across any VC/WiiWare that interests me either.
    Mostly I use HBC for ScummVM. I was starting it straight from Zelda until I thought HBC would make it easier.
    Anyway enough of me what I’m saying is a lot of people using ‘retarded warez apps’ should stand back and have a long hard look at what they’re doing. Maybe money is not an issue. Fair enough. All I know is I don’t have the money for a new Wii just lying around so I’ll only use TT’s apps for now. Apart from ScummVM I do use MPlayer a little but again I only use the original TT version.

    Regarding Bootmii I say don’t release it if you’re not entirely happy with it. Put it on hold and have a good look at you’re options.

  • 14 anv // Apr 28, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Ok, Nintendo can create any excuse for incressing the repairing cost up to 210 €.

    Now we need to get installed bootmii as soon as possible. Then, if the wii is so broken that does not boot, They will not be able to check if there is homebrew channel or not. And if it can boot, we can use bootmii to remove the homebrew channel and put bootmii in some “silent” mode.

    In the other side of this… for people that uses software modifications for running pirated games, even 210€ are a low cost in exchange for the benefits (the price of 4 games).

    I think that Nintendo is only generating viral advertising with this. The money is not the problem. Replacing some hacked wiis with “unhackeable ones” is not usefull for them: the viral advertising of “do not install homebrew or you will have to pay 210€ no matter what problem you have with your wii” is the important message.

    But they are forgetting that the games are so expensive that if you are planning to buy more than 4 games, it is cheaper to place a modchip or install some “softchip” on it. Even more: the message of Nintendo can be traduced as modchips are better than soft mods, because many of them can be removed before sending the console for repairing and they are transparent and compatible with any game and soft mods are not.

  • 15 nicklesminer // May 1, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I can also confirm that as of the moment, Nintendo of America is not charging extra for having homebrew installed, nor are they voiding the warranty because of it.
    I sent my wii into the Syracuse repair center on the 24th of April and will receive it back on Monday, May 4th (or so says UPS). I sent it in because of some graphical display issues (flickering and blotches of color making the image hard to see while playing the wii), I’ll leave an update after I get my wii back. But I have not received any charge or notification that they weren’t fixing it, so I’m assuming that they have.

  • 16 sion_zaphod // May 4, 2009 at 5:15 am

    This is my first post here so please excuse the wording! I have just read all the comments posted in regards to this warranty issue and wanted to have my say. I think Nintendo are right with this course of action but I really do not think it will make a scrap of difference!

    First of all when we decide to mod a console either by hardware or software we know in our minds that this is slightly dodgy and could void the warranty. This is something we all should accept or not do the mod! Second, if something then goes wrong either because of the mod or not why should we expect Nintendo to repair the fault. For example if I bought a new PC from say compaq or dell or some other company and the computer came bundled with the latest windows release. But then I decided to setup a dual boot Linux system and it buggered up the computer. I would never send the machine back to the company to be repaired. I would accept that it was my fault in the first place and therefore my responsibility to fix it!

    Now here is where I’m going with this thread. I think that if we brick our Wii through mods or homebrew use. We should’nt then go crying to Nintendo expecting them to repair it and then cying even more about what they charge for the repairs. Or trying to disguise what mods we had installed before sending it off for repair. We modded a perfectly decent console for the purpose of playing homebrew or illegal backups or both. This is the price we pay for trying to be clever!

    Instead of crying about it we should be focusing on fixing the problem ourselves. All it takes is one clever hacker to find a way of restoring a wii back to factory defaults. And then we can cut the big N out of the loop. Plus there is money to be made here too. I have fixed many semi bricked consoles and even some that were so screwed up that its ended up taking days to fix. I see this as a challenge despite the frustration. It encourages me to find out as much as possible about the consoles hardware and software.

    So stop crying because you bricked your wii, get off your behind and fix it yourself. And if you find a way to fix it. Let everyone know so they can send you their consoles for repair instead of Nintendo. And you can charge for this service!!

  • 17 stiansoftcorehard // May 6, 2009 at 1:44 am


    They do this for console that installed homebrew in general (also legal), that could brick your Wii. Not just warezloaders.

  • 18 theoperator.myopenid.com/ // May 6, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Back at the beginning of March when they roled out 4.0, I was dumb and did a full brick to my Wii. I called up Nintendo, sent my Wii in and 2 weeks later got a “brand new” (most likely refurb) Wii. No charge, no fee.(and extended 1 year warranty) I live in the US and I talk to a couple Nintendo Reps who I have known for years, most of them do not know about the added charges and doubt that NoA will be adding that anytime soon.
    Here’s hoping a new hack to run through, so I can get back to playing my old Atari games….

  • 19 shredman // May 7, 2009 at 2:45 am


    Ninendo has fought and won every lawsuit that claims anti-competitive behaviour in regards to their closed system gaming consoles.
    Nintendo will win given the precedents they themselves have set in regards to closed hardware. Without this no gaming console manufacturer would be able to charge a license fee for making software for a particular conosle.
    Nintendo are perhaps one of the most legally adept mega-corporations in the consumer industry today (due in no doubt to Howard Lincolns legacy )- they do not ever do anything without legal consult first – I would know because I used to work for Nintendo Australia and am well aware of their standard operating procedures. (They apply worldwide…)

  • 20 CCowell125 // May 12, 2009 at 5:07 am

    I phoned Nintendo UK, they confirmed that “third party software installed shall void your warrenty”. I complained, and he said that “I can’t help you there, Nintendo of Europe in Germany are the main offices”. I already knew that.

    It may be worth knowing that Nintendo of Europe’s main offices are indeed in Germany. And Nintendo UK (and any other Nintendo office in an EU country) are only customer service and repair offices.

    Also, Nintendo UK, at least in my experience, charge you almost the price of the item brand new in retail for a “repair” which in all my cases, was just sending me a refurbished item.

  • 21 Sephiroth // May 13, 2009 at 2:38 am

    @ CCowell125:

    that phone call wasn’t neccessary at all, as we all now already that a softmod technically voids your warranty and of course somebody from nintendo will tell you that. the question is, if you now really have to pay this ridiculous price (210€) just because of the installation of the hbc;instead of a regular non-guarantee case which will cost you (in most cases) not more than 100€.
    unfortunately I live in germany, so I guess, if I somehow brick my wii, at least I won’t have to send it to nintendo xD.
    I guess we just have to wait and see if other countries will adopt that behaviour or not.

  • 22 zoomx // Nov 5, 2009 at 12:45 am

    “If the defect is related to the modication or not, is of no interest for us, anytime we find unauthorized software, it is out of warranty.”

    Reading my italian warranty I understand that if the modification is related to the defect the wii is out of warranty and that’s ok but if I have an hardware failure then there is a warranty.
    The word above instead says that if you have an hardware failure and the find unauthorized software my wii is out of warranty. That’s completely different.

    If you have an hardware failure (for example the bluetooth module) when it is repaired they can check what it is installed, they just turn it on!

  • 23 eBay Wii Owner // Mar 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I bought my Wii on eBay last year, used. After a few months it had a wierd issue with the hard drive where games would crash mid-way so I finally sent it into Nintendo for repairs, should have been $85. I got this email today:

    Thank you for sending your Nintendo system for repair.

    Upon examination of your system, our technicians determined that the system has been tampered with. Our technicians discovered that the product was altered by downloading of unauthorized software, such as the “homebrew” channel.

    These types of alterations void the warranty. In addition, a system that has been altered is permanently damaged and cannot be brought back to its original working condition. As such, your only option would be to purchase a replacement.

    If you enclosed a check with your repair, your payment will be returned. If you provided a credit card when setting up your repair order, your credit card will not be charged. For other methods of payment (i.e., money order, cashier’s check), you will receive a refund within the next two to three weeks.

    Your product should arrive back to you in approximately two weeks. We will hold it at our repair facility for 5 business days before it is sent back. If you have questions you may call 800-448-6797 and ask to speak with a Tech Service Administrator. We are available every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. However, should we happen to be on another call, please leave a voice mail message with your name and phone number.


    Nintendo of America Inc.

    Apparently, it had the “Homebrew” channel on it, something which I never installed, nor never heard of until now. A quick Ask search brought me here.

    I was incredulous: This is like your mechanic saying he won’t repair the fan belt on your engine because he smelled weed in your back seat! (Like that would *ever* happen…)

    After vigourously complaining, the tech agreed to make an “exception” and sell me a refurbed Wii for $165. Ridiculous! But I had no choice. She said I should take it up with the original seller, but I laughed – I’m not going to return an eBay item after 4 months of use to some podunk in Arizona.

    I attempted to argue with them that just flash the BIOS or whatever, I mean, c’mon it’s just software! The rep claimed that they couldn’t “quality control” the repair because of the mod. Ridiculous. I can flash the PROM on my linksys router, or my PC, but multi-billion dollar Nintendo can’t flash their ROMs to remove some software I didn’t install.

    Anyway, I asked if this was a “recent” policy, and it is: as of before the holidays (Nov. 2009) they refuse to service hacked Wii’s. So beware.

    In short: You void your warranty and Nintendo won’t touch the units for repairs no way no how.

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