Bricks - Intro

Bricks. There’s so many different types. Low level bricks, semi bricks, full bricks, banner bricks, soft bricks, hard bricks, fire bricks, and many more. But the mortar that connects these bricks is functionality, or a lack thereof. They’re all pretty much useless.

The Wii is definitely not immune to bricks, and in this post I’ll explain pretty much everything there is to be known about Wii bricks.

Background - What is a brick and why is it called a brick?

Simply put, a brick in the technology world is something that causes all or a part of a device to stop working properly. Common symptoms include black screens, error messages, and other weird behavior.

Bricks can have many causes. They can be caused by software or hardware, but it’s most commonly caused by software. Also, the main cause of bricks is failed attempts at modding a device.

The reason why bricks are called bricks is actually quite simple. They got that name because in a true bricked state, the device in question is about as useful as an actual brick.

When it comes to the Wii, there are many types of bricks, and each type varies in cause, symptoms, and reparability.

Brick Protection

Nowadays, brick protection is common with almost every device when there is a risk of a brick, and the Wii is no exception. Brick protection is software that can run even in a bricked state, and it can allow you to undo whatever damage was done, in order to repair the brick.

The Wii has a few different options for brick protection:

BootMii installed as an IOS - This really isn’t protection, but I’m including it anyway. BootMii as IOS is basically installed into an extra stub IOS on the Wii and can allow you to dump your NAND and flash the NAND. The reason why it doesn’t really serve as brick protection is that there’s no real way to access it in a bricked state without using other software to do so. The only real point of having BootMii as IOS is to make a NAND dump.

Priiloader - Priiloader is better than BootMii installed as an IOS. It essentially piggybacks off of the System Menu, and can still load in certain situations where the System Menu isn’t able to load. While it’s has fair protection, and definitely is highly recommended to install, it’s still not perfect. Because it piggybacks off the System Menu, there are still situations when even this protection will fail, and it can easily be wiped out by a System Update.

BootMii installed as boot2 - This is the holy grail of Wii brick protection. It places itself at the earliest part of the Wii boot process that can be modified, boot2. While I won’t explain boot2 entirely in detail here, as I’ve done it in other posts, let’s just say that it’s hard to damage boot2 unless you’re intentionally trying to, which means that BootMii as boot2 will almost always work. Unfortunately, like infomercials, there’s a catch. Installing BootMii as boot2 relied on the strncmp bug that was present in boot1, which verifies the signature of boot2’s hash. This bug allowed the signature to be faked. However, Nintendo did patch this bug pretty quickly once they discovered it. All Wiis since mid-2008 or so have this patched, and there’s no way to install BootMii as boot2 on these Wiis, at least not yet....

Types of bricks

So, now you know about the ways to protect against bricks. I included that section before this one because that would allow me to better explain ways to fix the following bricks.

There are many different types of Wii bricks. Here they are:

Theme brick - One of the most common bricks. These bricks are caused by installing a corrupted theme, a theme for the wrong system menu, or a theme that was designed incorrectly. The symptom of a theme brick is a black screen when attempting to load the System Menu.

Banner brick - Another very common brick. Banner bricks are caused by installing WADs that have a malformed/corrupted banner (fun fact: a malformed banner is also the attack vector for Bannerbomb). The most common symptom of a banner brick is a System files are corrupted error message when trying to load the System Menu.

Semi brick - This brick is not as common, but is definitely something to worry about if you’re messing with region changing. Semi bricks are caused by a mismatch between the System Menu region and the actual region settings of the Wii. The symptom of this brick is the Settings menu showing an Opera error message.

System Menu full brick - Nowadays this brick isn’t seen too often. This brick is similar to a semi brick, except it happens as soon as you turn on the Wii. It can happen when SYSCONF is missing or damaged. Normally, when you boot the Wii or return to Wii Menu with a missing or damaged SYSCONF, it would take you through the initial setup screen again. However, if a Wii was in a semi bricked state, it would show an Opera error. It would do this every time the Wii is turned on, creating a full brick.

IOS full brick - This type of brick is still very prevalent. It is caused when the System Menu IOS is missing or damaged or the System Menu itself is missing or damaged. When this happens, the Wii will not display any signal on boot.

Low Level Brick - It is very hard to brick a Wii this badly. A Low Level Brick is caused when a part of the Wii’s boot process, such as boot1 or boot2, is damaged or missing. The symptoms are the same as an IOS full brick.

How to fix these bricks

So we know all the different ways a Wii can be bricked, but how do you fix them? It depends on the type. Do note that all these bricks can technically be fixed with a hardware NAND programmer + access to the Wii’s keys, but it doesn’t make sense to do so for most of these.

Theme brick - Fixing a theme brick through software requires having Priiloader or BootMii as boot2. The quickest way to fix this is to use one of the aforementioned tools to boot into the Homebrew Channel, and launch a program such as MyMenuifyMOD in order to install a known working theme or the default theme. This will fix the brick.

Banner brick - A banner brick is easier to fix if you have Priiloader or BootMii as boot2, but there is a last resort. If you have one of the two tools, use it to boot into the HBC, load a WAD Manager, and uninstall the WAD that caused the brick. If you for some reason don’t have either of them, use Bluebomb to load the HackMii Installer, and then exit, which will take you to the HBC, where you can then follow the same steps.

Semi brick - To fix a semi brick, you have to correct the mismatch either by changing the System Menu to the correct region, or changing the region settings to match the System Menu, the latter of which is easier. Use a program such as WiiMod Lite, and go to the information section to determine what region the installed System Menu is. Then, go to the region changer section, and change the region settings to match the System Menu region. This should fix the brick.

System Menu full brick - This is a similar fix to the semi brick, however it’s only fixable using BootMii installed as boot2 or SaveMii/SaveMiiFrii. With BootMii as boot2, load the HBC and follow the same steps as the semi brick. To use SaveMii/SaveMiiFrii, you need either a SaveMii dongle or a GameCube controller, and you need a Wii that can read DVD discs + a modchip. You’ll then need to burn homebrew to a DVD and configure it to autoboot, then insert that DVD in the Wii and use the homebrew to undo the damage. If you can’t use either of these methods, a hardware NAND programmer + the Wii’s keys is the only solution.

IOS full brick - In order to fix this with software, you need BootMii as boot2. Use it to either restore a NAND backup, or if you know exactly what’s wrong, load the HBC and undo the damage. Without BootMii boot2, the only option is a hardware NAND programmer with the Wii’s keys.

Low Level Brick - It’s dead, Jim! A Low Level Brick can only be fixed with a hardware NAND programmer and the Wii’s keys.

Outro

I hope this post helps you with your bricked Wii.

I’d appreciate some feedback on the subtle comedic elements I added to this post. Let me know what you think!