The startup screen (banner) for the Homebrew Channel as displayed in the Wii Menu.
The Homebrew Channel, commonly abbreviated as HBC, is a freeware homebrew application loader that was developed to provide a way of easily running unofficial software on the Wii console. Once installed, it appears as a standard Wii Channel on the Wii Menu. When launched, it displays a list of applications found on an SD card or a USB drive. The user then can control and select an application to launch by using a Wii Remote or the GameCube controller. It also accepts application uploads via a USB Gecko or TCP/IP (over Wi-Fi or Ethernet), which allows for quick application testing during development. When first launched from the Wii Menu, the Homebrew Channel will check for updates to itself and automatically download them if the user chooses to do so.
Overview and hacks used to install it
The Wii is designed to prevent the use of unauthorized software and Nintendo once actively attempted to prevent the use of Homebrew Channel with each of its software updates for the Wii. As a result, installation of the Homebrew Channel required the use of various software exploits and workarounds.
Earliest attempts used a bug present in System Menu 3.2 and below in the signature verification of discs in conjunction with a modchip. In systems using software prior to System Menu 4.0, users could load an exploit in the Wii version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and a specially crafted game save called the Twilight Hack copied from an SD card. As of the System Menu 4.0 update, the Twilight Hack had been entirely disabled.
In response to the System Menu 4.0 update, Bannerbomb, which uses an exploit in the Wii System Menu (so therefore only requires a normal sized SD card), was developed. Bannerbomb is a software exploit that exploits a bug in the way the Wii renders channel banners. The original version of Bannerbomb was disabled in System Menu 4.2. A further exploit was later discovered and is exploited in the "SD Card Menu". This was released as Bannerbomb v2. System Menu 4.3 has disabled the Bannerbomb v2 exploit used to load unauthorized software.
In systems using System Menu 4.2 or 4.3, users could exploit a buffer overflow in Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures and use the HackMii Installer that is loaded on an SD card. The specially-crafted save that uses this exploit to run code is called "Indiana Pwns". Users could also exploit a flaw in custom stage loading in Super Smash Bros. Brawl to run an installer such as HackMii. The specially-crafted stage that uses this exploit to run code is called "Smash Stack", and is a particularly reliable way of loading homebrew because the game can load custom stages directly from the SD cards, completely bypassing the System Menu; Nintendo cannot easily fix bugs on game discs, making this exploit particularly difficult to disable. The exploit requires all custom stages to be deleted or the existing "private" folder on the SD cards to be renamed. An exploit for LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga called "Return of the Jodi" also exists and can run the HackMii Installer. LetterBomb can be used like Bannerbomb to load the HackMii Installer and the Homebrew Channel, however it uses an exploit in the Wii Message Board. The target Wii system's MAC address is needed to digitally sign the message file.
Users who had already installed the Homebrew Channel prior to updating their Wiis to System 4.2 or 4.3 could allow the Homebrew Channel to self update which had already been updated to a version that circumvented the System 4.2 and 4.3 prevention measures. There are unofficial download sites that also provide this workaround.
A hack released called Yu-Gi-OWNED works on any System Menu version, just like Smash Stack does. This exploit is based on the Indiana Pwns exploit, and the Twilight Hack. This exploit runs on PAL Wiis, while a separate exploit called "Yu-Gi-VAH" can be used on NTSC consoles. SDHC cards do not currently work with this hack so a normal SD card is required. On 9 August 2011 Team Twiizers released a new exploit named LetterBomb which exploits a bug used in the Wii's internal messaging system that works with System Menu 4.3. After that, Team Twiizers released another exploit called "Bathaxx". This took advantage of another loading issue in the game LEGO Batman. It also works on System Menu 4.3.
Nintendo maintains that the installation of the Homebrew Channel voids the warranty on a Wii and that users will no longer be protected by warranty from console defects, system file corruption or physical damages because it is considered unauthorized software. This means that the console cannot be repaired unless the user does so themselves.
Companies such as Nintendo say that the Homebrew Channel allows for piracy, but the homebrew community argues that they are against piracy and they do not release code to play pirate games, but pirates often use exploits from the homebrew community and modify them to play these illegal games. The homebrew community has been known to take extra steps against piracy.
- "Homebrew Channel". WiiBrew. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "System Menu 4.0 Rundown".
- "Bannerbomb". WiiBrew. 2011-02-03. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "Indiana Pwns". WiiBrew. 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "Smash Stack". WiiBrew. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "Return of the Jodi". WiiBrew. Retrieved 2011-12-09.
- "Yu-Gi-Owned!". WiiBrew. 2010-10-12. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "Yu-Gi-Vah". WiiBrew. 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "LetterBomb". HackMii. 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Bathaxx". WiiBrew. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
- "The Argon resolution".