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How to Transfer Wii Data to the Wii U

Are you on the fence about the Wii U because you don’t want to lose all your Wii save data and digital purchases? Well, stop that, you. The Wii U allows you to import the majority of your original Wii goodies by using the Wii System Transfer Tool, a time consuming and overly complicated process designed to help Wii owners move into the current generation. Wii System Transfer allows you to import all past Wii data, allowing you to import Wii save data, WiiWare titles, Virtual Console titles and save data, Wii Points, Wii Shop Channel history, and Mii characters to your brand new Wii U console.

Things to Know:

  • You can’t transfer Wii U data to Wii, but then again why would you even want to?
  • All data is transferred as a set, you cannot transfer individual items.
  • Transferring from Wii to Wii U is a one-time thing and the original data will be permanently erased from the Wii.
  • Preinstalled Wii-exclusive software such as Wii Parade and that voting crap no one used will not be transfered.

To start the process, put your Wii SD card into the SD card slot on the front of the Wii U. Then, from the main menu located on the Wii U GamePad, locate and press the Wii Menu button. By default, it should be to the right of Hulu Plus after the mandatory online update.

If you haven’t yet, you will be prompted to pair a Wii remote with the Wii U. This is because the Wii menu is incompatible with the Wii U GamePad.

To pair your Wii Remote to your Wii U, press the Pair Wii Remote button. Then press the red sync button on the back of your Wii Remote. Within seconds it should chime and vibrate, signifying that the pairing is complete. Unless you want to pair addition controllers, you may now back out of this menu to the previous and select Continue.

Now using the Wii Remote, select Wii Menu. This will turn off your Wii U GamePad and boot up the Wii U as a Wii. From here, select Wii System Transfer.

Now, you’re going to have to have an active Internet connection to continue. Go through the menus until your see the Download button. Clicking it will transfer you to the Wii Shop Channel. Download Wii System Transfer to your SD card. Once downloaded, press the Home button on your Wii Remote to take you back to the main menu. From here, press the SD Card Menu icon on the lower left-hand corner of your screen and locate and launch the Wii System Transfer software from within it.

My Wii U as a Wii.

There are now only three steps left in the transfer process. Assuming you have already inserted your Wii’s SD card into the Wii U, there are only two steps; but if you haven’t, insert it now. Step two then involves you plugging the SD card back into your original Wii console so it can finally import all data to it and delete it from the Wii. Step 3 has you removing the SD card from the Wii and putting it back into your Wii U to complete the system transfer.

Continue to follow the onscreen instructions to properly format the SD card. Once complete, turn on your original Wii console and download the Wii U Transfer Tool from the Wii Shop channel, located under Wii Channels. If you have two Wii Remotes, that’s great. If you don’t, however, you will need to pair your Wii Remote back with the Wii and change your TV’s source to accommodate the AV connection the Wii uses. If you’re like me and haven’t touched the Wii in some time, expect to install a few updates before you can access the Wii Shop channel.

Once you’re able to download it, make sure to download it to your Wii System Memory instead of the SD Card. Return to the main menu and select Wii U Transfer Tool. Now it’s time to insert the SD Card into the Wii console. Once done, press next and it will load additional transfer software to your Wii, connect to the Internet and start the transfer after showing you what can and can’t be transferred. If the content isn’t stored in the Wii System Memory and is on the SD card, it can then be re-downloaded from the Wii Shop Channel on the Wii U console’s Wii Menu. After the final warning appears, press Transfer to begin.

The entire transfer animation is of Pikmin carrying the software from the Wii to the Wii U. While it’s cute, in classic Wii fashion it’s a little rough around the edges and will likely be the last time you see the subpar quality of the original Wii, unless you go back and play a Wii title on your Wii U, of course. Once the Pikmin leave in their spaceship, it’s time to pull the SD card from your Wii and reinsert it into your Wii U console.

You may now turn off your Wii and turn your TV’s source back over to the Wii U. You will now need to pair your Wii Remote back up with your Wii U. Now hit next to load the data from the SD card. The Pikmin will now land in your Wii U console and start to unpack all the removed data. I was hoping they would turn into their HD version once they landed, but sadly, they retained the jagginess of their Wii counterparts. It’s a simple animation that will only be seen once, so I can’t complain too much, but it would have been cuteness overload if they put the extra effort into it.

The rest of the process is just a waiting game. Once completed, you may access your Wii titles from the Wii Menu channel. Like before, it’ll turn your Wii U into a Wii, but you have the added ability of actually playing Wii games! Fun stuff.

The entire process of transferring data from the Wii to the Wii U can be completed in around an hour, give or take. If you already sold or boxed up your Wii, you’re naturally going to have a harder time than those who kept their Wii hooked up to their TVs. While this option is great for those of us done with the original Wii, it would have been a lot easier if you didn’t have to swap the card between two Wiis.

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Like any good gentleman of the evening, Dustin has been around the Internet more than a few times. He's co-founder of Geekenstein Media, a regular co-host on the Nuts and Bolts podcast and co-stars in the Broke and Bored video series. He does a lot of co-things.
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  • GamerFromJump

    If you have far more game data than can fit in the system memory, do you just complete the process multiple times? Also, does the Wii menu expand to accommodate additional titles, like the 3DS’s does?

    • http://www.dustintriplett.com/ Dustin Triplett

      I honestly don’t know, but I would assume that you would only be able to transfer an amount of game data that would be able to fit in the Wii U. The Wii menu does expand to accomodate additional titles, so if you buy games from the original Wii shop through the Wii U you would be able to store them just fine.

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  • David

    Thanks for this clear stepwise explanation of the process. The manual is horribly inadequate for the transfer process.

  • smarlett

    Thank you so much for your funny and helpful explanation. I wish they had spent half the amount of time on usability as they did on the transfer graphics.