News Article

Wii U External Hard Drive Usage Outlined by Satoru Iwata

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Up to 2TB supported

For those of you that have watched today's Nintendo Direct broadcast — you can check it out here — you'll have seen lots of graphics of external hard drives, Wii U systems and some interesting demonstrations with large science lab-style glass jars. There was some pretty good news from Satoru Iwata, and a few small things that may frustrate.

For starters, Wii U will support hard drives up to 2TB in size, which is a hefty amount of memory and a useful option for those keen on buying a lot of retail download games, in particular. One downside is that the drive will be formatted for Wii U when setup, and you won't be able to switch it back and forth with other devices, such as PCs. That makes sense from Nintendo's perspective, in terms of maintaining security and countering a potential back-door for hackers, but will likely mean that you'll need to have a hard drive exclusively for your Wii U.

Interestingly, it was demonstrated that games stored on the system and the external device will both be displayed on the Wii U home menu, strongly suggesting — practically confirming — that games will be playable straight from a hard drive; that'll be a relief to many after some doubt that briefly emerged earlier in the week. Satoru Iwata did outline that the best option is a hard drive with its own power source (ie a plug of its own); hard drives with two USB cables, or flash USB drives, come with warnings that they won't necessarily be the ideal solution, even if they'll technically work.

As previously reported, it was also clarified that SD cards can be used to store Wii, WiiWare and Wii Virtual Console data, but cannot be used for any Wii U save data.

If you're going to be downloading a lot of games, it looks like external hard drives will be a must, as even 32GB (29GB available after system setup) on the premium console won't last for too long.

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User Comments (58)

iphys

#2

iphys said:

What if you want to use an SD card with a USB adapter — then you could store Wii U games on it? Seems kind of silly to make people go to the extra trouble.

RupeeClock

#3

RupeeClock said:

Being formatted exclusively for usage with Wii U systems won't necessarily stop it from working on computers.

Some soft-modded Wiis format their drives as "WBFS format", which the soft-modded Wiis load games from, but computers with dedicated software can also manage these drives.
The point I'm making is that however Nintendo chooses to format Wii U setup drives, people may find ways to manage these drives anyway.

...STILL, what if you wanted to store OTHER THINGS on such a drive? Surely aside from games and save data, you may want music and video, right?

Kohaku

#5

Kohaku said:

Why should I need to use an external HDD with its own power? Can't see the problem when your external HDD needs its power from the Wii U.

SkywardLink98

#7

SkywardLink98 said:

How much will it cost? If it costs another $100 then suddenly the price is $450, more than the Xbox 360 launched at.

9th_Sage

#8

9th_Sage said:

@RupeeClock in theory, you could just make a second partition on that HDD, only way to know for sure is to try it when the system is out. I'd be a bit surprised if it tried to use two partitions on the same device though.

Kaine_Morrison

#9

Kaine_Morrison said:

You can always partition the hard drive if you want to use it for the WiiU and Computer.
My question is thusly: What if you get a bad hard drive (fails after a few weeks) what happens to all of your purchases?

9th_Sage

#10

9th_Sage said:

Purchases are tired into your Nintendo Network ID, so you'd have to redownload them.

GameLord08

#11

GameLord08 said:

@SkywardLink98: Well, first of all, this is an optional cost, so that's invalid. To answer your question, you can find 1TB HDDs on the market for about £60 nowadays (roughly $80-85, if I'm not mistaken) - and this is on any other day that isn't Black Friday [wink wink, nudge nudge]. Seeing as that could last you for essentially years, it's a good move if you're that determined to go solely digital retail.

iphys

#12

iphys said:

From what I understand from the Nintendo Direct translation, using a USB flash drive or SD/USB adapter wouldn't allow you to play games, but using a HDD would. So the bad news from the other day was half right.

ei8htbit

#13

ei8htbit said:

@Kohaku
I would imagine they recommend an independent power source for the external hard drive in order to avoid the drive going into hibernation or standby unintentionally like most unpowered external drives do when not active for 5 minutes. It's just more stable to have an always on device.

rjejr

#14

rjejr said:

Why is it - practically confirming - that having the external HDD on the menu means the games play from the HDD? All my SD games show up on the SD menu but if I don't have enough space on my Wii they still won't play.

And the 4GB Xbox360 - despite having external HDD capabilities - has a history of not playing well with some of it's games, I think Halo for one. Not to say Nintendo will repeat MS mistakes, but they are releasing a 8GB system so who knows for sure.

Sonic260

#15

Sonic260 said:

@Red_Kinetic Your purchases will be deleted, obviously. But if it's like the 3DS where you can use any SD card, then you should be able to use your eShop account on the Wii U to redownload them for free on another external hard drive.

ThomasBW84Admin

#16

ThomasBW84 said:

@rjejr It's pretty standard for systems to have the ability to run games from hard drives (they may use a little bit of on-board memory, for example, to help run it too). It's likely that Nintendo would explicitly say if this wasn't the case, I think, and knowing Nintendo it'd have probably had a separate screen for HDD games if they couldn't just be played right away.

I reckon it's 95% likely, personally.

iphys

#17

iphys said:

I don't think they would be so picky about formatting the HDDs to only operate with one Wii U unless it really does allow you to play games directly from it; otherwise, they're being really ridiculous. And the dismal storage left on the Basic model for games would be equally laughable.

Mollutje

#18

Mollutje said:

I'm probably not going to use the eShop to download retail titles, so I may not even end up buying a hard drive for my Wii U. I bet I can store a decent amount of eShop games like Toki Tori and the like on the 32gb. Still, it's obviously a good thing to be able to give it that much more storage.

Zyph

#19

Zyph said:

Didn't Reggie say the Wii U supports up to 3 terabytes?! Now they say it's only two...

McHaggis

#20

McHaggis said:

@RupeeClock: There's a chance the entire partition will be encrypted, much like the PS3's internal disk drive and the Nintendo Wii's NAND flash. If that's the case, mounting on another computer to access the data would be very difficult, perhaps even impossible, without the encryption key.

iphys

#21

iphys said:

I could have sworn I heard that 3 TB number somewhere. First they let you pre-order: then they tell you all the bad news at the last minute.

SkywardLink98

#23

SkywardLink98 said:

@GameLord08 I was thinking Nintendo was manufacturing their own, not that any would be compatible. And prices here a a good bit more expensive than that. I just check BestBuy.com and they have 320Gb for $49.99 so it's still an additional 50 bucks.

SkywardLink98

#24

SkywardLink98 said:

@Grodus But if the day one update takes 3GB, than 32 won't last long, since save files, DLC, smaller eShop games, etc will all be taking up that 32GB.

Fudge

#25

Fudge said:

I'm almost certain the hard drive's data will be viewable rather quickly after launch. Xbox 360's FATX was viewable on PC's I think only 3 months after launch. Also, why would you need 3TB?

renaryuugufan92

#26

renaryuugufan92 said:

a 250GB external drive will fill most of my needs~ anyone know any good deals on ones with high consumer ratings and ones that have their own power source~?

AbeVigoda

#27

AbeVigoda said:

lol @ those here complaining that they can't use a 3TB HD with the Wii U. Did you plan on downloading 120, 25GB retail games??

LavaTwilight

#28

LavaTwilight said:

I'll only buy digital downloads if I can't get hardcopies of the games so it doesn't bother me much.

Wonder_Ideal

#29

Wonder_Ideal said:

Nice to hear that games can be played off of external devices. -.- I'm not sure how much I'll use such a device because I don't currently have plans to go all digital. Buying digital copies would be good if a game was hard to get though.

TrueWiiMaster

#30

TrueWiiMaster said:

Wait, you can get external hard drives that plug into the wall? I didn't even know that... Mine's a regular USB HDD (formerly a laptop HDD). Hopefully that's not a problem.

AVahne

#32

AVahne said:

@SkywardLink98
Never use retail stores to buy computer parts unless you're desperate, they have VERY good deals, or if you have no idea how to order things online.
Go to newegg.com
A highly recommended site, and they have very frequent sales with amazing deals. If you find prices are too high for now, wait a while. I can see Black Friday and Christmas sales being heavenly for buyers.

retro_player_22

#33

retro_player_22 said:

I probably won't download digital stuff as much so 2TB is just way too big of a space for me to fill, my 500GB hard drive is all I need so it'll work out.

DrDaisy

#34

DrDaisy said:

Having the format exclusive to Wii-U is just delaying the inevitable. I doubt someone won't find a way to make a program that lets people view and edit the contents with a PC or Mac. Then there will be a mandatory update (unless you don't ever want to play another game legally) to combat that program, then the program will be improved to combat that, and so on and so forth. Anyway, I hope some third parties make devices that can securely hold the Wii-U and various external hard drives together for travel purposes. So can I use more than one external hard drive per console? Or am I going to have to reformat the hard drives every time I change them like with the internal hard drives in PS3s?

Blodtryck

#35

Blodtryck said:

One power socket for the console, one for the gamepad, one for the external harddrive... Geez.

Molotov

#37

Molotov said:

@GameLord08
Eh No Not Optional. More Like Necessary And Nintendo KNOWS That. That And Other Reasons Is Why I Agree With Ubisofts Stand On The Wii Us Launch Price (Especially In Europe Where It Is The Equivalent Of 550 dollars (BEFORE BUYING A NECESSARY FRICKIN EXTERNAL HARDDRIVE)). And I Know They Are Losing Money But A 120gb Harddrive Wouldn't Have Broken Their Bank And Would Have Made It Possible Flor Many Consumers To Hold On To Their Wallets A While Longer.

Rapadash6

#38

Rapadash6 said:

All the proprietary stuff shouldn't be all that surprising to anyone. Nintendo loves to challenge hackers in any and every way that they can. From what I've heard, running games off of a USB 2.0 drive is much slower than the internal methods that the 360 and PS3 use, but at the same time we still don't know for sure that it'll be reading data from directly from the drive. It's possible that it will work similar to how the Wii handled data on SD cards: by transferring software onto the internal memory before it can be used. It'd be annoying to have to wait for what could very well be as long as a couple of minutes everytime you pulled from the drive, but overall it's not a terrible solution. I'm just glad the Wii U is more open to storage solutions than the previous system was, looking back on how greatful we were when they finally added the SD data loading menu, they really didn't have a clue in the onset of the Wii's lifecycle.

collect530

#41

collect530 said:

Still no news on streaming, music, video and pictures via the Wii U to TV. That for me would be a great function already offered by competitors, or have I missed it?

Zombie_Barioth

#43

Zombie_Barioth said:

@Molotov
No necessary means you can't do without and is required for basic functions, you could easily do without an external HDD. Given the limit of file sizes for Wiiware even if the games are 1-2gb in size with the 29gb you should be able to have 8-15 e-shop games downloaded with enough space for everything else. Anyone remotely serious about going digital will take the price of an external HDD into consideration just like any other accessories.

Starwolf_UK

#44

Starwolf_UK said:

Dedicate a whole drive is iffy given what if in you need to upgrade? Do they expect you to download everything you bought again or, should I pray Nintendo release the hard drive transfer channel for just $6.99...

@Rapadash6 I think the NAND will be used for games as follows:

  • Certain files will be loaded onto the NAND so the NAND can act as a cache
  • Xbox360 does something similar. Tales of Vesperia is an easy to explain example. First time you go into battle it takes a bit of time to load (as it reads the data off the disc). All other times you enter battle, it is a lot quicker (until you play something else)
    This is essentially the same as the SD card menu (it caches the game you play in the NAND)

The disc read speed is said to be similar to USB 2.0 so performance-wise both are the same so no need for additional caching.

DerpSandwich

#45

DerpSandwich said:

Poop. I'm in need of a hard drive for other reasons as well, and I was hoping to kill two birds with one stone. Oh well, can't complain, because THE WII U IS ALMOST HERE!!!

Furealz

#46

Furealz said:

Yo I got a 1.5TB External Hard Drive for $80 at Staples back when it was on Sale in Oct.......I bought it for the Wii U I'm so keen! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DACtNK0OQF4 my hilarious unboxing video,I'm just trying to give it exposure because it's funny and took my whole weekend to make.

Moshugan

#47

Moshugan said:

*''One downside is that the drive will be formatted for Wii U when setup, and you won't be able to switch it back and forth with other devices, such as PCs.''
Oh, okay. That's.. a minor dissappointment. :I

Molotov

#49

Molotov said:

@Zombie_Barioth
Toki Tori 700mb. Trine 2.2 2GB. And These Are The Smaller eShop Games. A External Harddrive Shouldnt Be Considered After The First Download (Or Even Before That Considering Tekken Tag Team'sd File Size Over The Basic Bundle)

DarkNinja9

#50

DarkNinja9 said:

sigh so many memory talk and i was planning to use my flash drive if i needed it =S guess not

WaxxyOne

#51

WaxxyOne said:

@Zyph
I challenge you to fill 2TB worth of games over the Wii U's entire lifespan. Assuming an average of 20GB per game, your 2TB drive will hold about 100 Wii U games. That's full retail titles, many of which undoubtedly won't be offered on the eShop when they release. I own about 2 dozen retail games for the Wii, and about 40 digital and VC games which are vastly smaller and I consider myself an avid gamer. Good luck in your quest.

WaxxyOne

#52

WaxxyOne said:

@Starwolf_UK
You seem to have Nintendo confused with Microsoft. Nintendo is not about to release utility or maintenance software and charge the user for it. The fact that they're letting you plug in essentially any external hard drive should drive that point home. Microsoft's version of external storage is expensive proprietary hard drives and SD cards, and their wireless adaptor costs $60-100 new.

Zombie_Barioth

#53

Zombie_Barioth said:

@Molotov
That was my point, you won't be able to download larger ones like full retail games but the smaller ones would work fine. Even if Nintendo included a 120gb HDD it still wouldn't last too long if you plan to download retail games given their size so you would still need to upgrade.

FonistofCruxis

#54

FonistofCruxis said:

That's good to know but it may take a while before I need one after getting a Wii U as I won't be downloading any retail games and I often take a while to get downloadable games after they release.

pepsiman

#55

pepsiman said:

"32GB (29GB available after system setup)"
It's got nothing to do with system setup, they're just explaining which units they're using.

The Nintendo Direct explained (in Japanese) that 32GB (32 Gigabytes) is 29.8GiB (29.8 Gibibytes)

32 * 1000 * 1000 * 1000 = 32,000,000,000
32,000,000,000 / (1024 * 1024 * 1024) = 29.80

Rect_Pola

#56

Rect_Pola said:

The inability to use SD cards like they can external memory and the like seems odd.

Dauntless

#57

Dauntless said:

2 TB is good support, better then Microsoft, but it would have been nice if you could just stick in a 2.5" HDD like the PS3 and have it be seamless. But screwing in a bare hard drive is probably too technical for the majority of Nintendo's audience.
It might be fun to try an SSD.
I don't expect the 2TB limit to ever be raised though. That would mean Nintendo would have to figure out GPT. The limit is likely because of MBR. Of course that doesn't make sense since they're not booting off the drive anyway. Anyways I'm going to stop trying to understand Nintendo. Not all things are logical in the universe.
2TB still puts MS to shame.

LittleLion

#58

LittleLion said:

@SkywardLink98 At Launch The Xbox 360 came in two versions: a 300 dollar version without storage (which can be compared with the 8GB version of wii U, which is - today - considered as no/minimal storage. And a 400 dollar 20 GB version.
At the time of the Xbox launch, the cost of a regular 40 GB external drive was around $50 which makes the price of a 20 GB external drive ~25$. However because of the custom design but mostly insane pricing of it's proprietary drives you had to pay 100 bucks to get it (separately, the premium system included more extras for the $100 extra..).
Today the price of storage has gone down but the used storage has gone up.. Where the maximum size of downloads then was around 1,5 GB (big demo's or patches), today the download size of the largest downloadable retail game for Wii U (ACIII) is 17 gigs. That's almost 12 times as much. 20GB*12 = 240 GB.
A regular external 250 GB HDD costs about $35, Xbox 250 GB drive costs $70 (which is still twice as much but not as insane as the first one which was 4 times as much).
If Nintendo would offer an extra 250 GB built-in hard drive with the system it would probably cost around $400 (which is the same as the Xbox 360 premium at launch) while making the system itself even bigger in size, making more sound and heating up faster requiring a bigger fan which would make even more noise. And it would cause the problem of a non-customizable amount of storage with too much or too little storage for a lot of customers.. all these compromises to put in more storage would have made the system less appealing to a lot of people. And beside that: It would have required Nintendo to develop new sku's purely to upgrade the storage capacity like MS and sony had to do over the years...
So putting in only minimal storage for updates, patches, and small downloads, and providing support for large external HDDs was really the best choice for everyone.

With $100 you can crank your storage capacity all the way to the top with an 2TB external drive. And those who plan to buy only download-only games via the e-shop, don't have to pay more for storage they don't need.
With 50 (which would make it as expensive as the xbox 360 at launch) you can buy a 320 GB drive or if your lucky a 500 GB.

It's sad that people cling so much to what they're used to that they see improvements as flaws..

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