A week from now, part 2 will cover the rebuilding of the Wii internals as well as the design of the case. Finally, part 3 will cover cutting and building the case and installing everything into it. Let's take a look!
Alright let's crack open a Wii! To do this we'll need a regular small Phillips screwdriver and a special 3-prong "Nintendo" screwdriver.
Opening the case
Let's start with the large base of the unit. Use the X-Acto knife to lift up the pads indicated, and remove the screws beneath. Note that some pads don't have any screws beneath them.
In case you're just modding your Wii and intend to put it back together someday, it's a good idea to make small marks near the screw holes as to which type was in it. As you'll soon notice the Wii uses many standard Phillips screws as well.
Final case-removing steps:
- Pull off the face plate and unplug the small wire that's on it.
- Lift off the side of the unit that says "Nintendo". This will reveal the guts.
- Lift off the RF shielding and place aside.
Let's pull off the disc drive now, shall we? It is being held down by the 4 screws indicated below. The screws attach into the case but on the disc drive side are setting in rubber "bumpers" This gives the entire drive unit a bit of "bounce" to help avoid skipping. You know, for when the errant Wii-mote smacks into the wall and knocks a painting of Dogs Playing Poker onto the console.
With the drive removed the Wii now looks like the following:
At least now everything is normal Phillips screws. We suppose if you get past their security screws they just think, well, "Screw it". (Yes, ha ha, we'll be here all week, try the veal.) Remove every Phillips screw you can find, in this general order:
- WiFi antennas (green bits of PCB's on the right).
- Black plastic around heat sink.
- RF shielding from drive area.
- Black plastic under RF shielding.
Now we start getting hardcore. Remove the 4 screws from around the heatsink and you'll be able to lift it off the chips, like so:
Drawing the main parts into the computer
Another thing we love to do (as mentioned in the How-to make a robot hand article) is to put actual items in our scanner and get data that way. Circuit boards, being basically flat, are great for this. Also most scans come in as actual size so it's fairly accurrate. This, along with manual measuring, gets you a good representation of the part.
Let's move onto the next largest component, the disk drive. See, we are old school, grew up with C64's, Apple ]['s and Ataris, so anything disk-related we call a disk drive. And soda is pop. Yeah. Anyway, again we use rectangles to define the major shapes, in this case the body and the mounting tabs in the back.
The side view shows the main section (center gray shape, center black shape), the circuit board(s) at the bottom (lower green shape), and the aforementioned raised portion (get this -- at the top). Again we'll cover the elevation view of the unit more in part 2.
Desoldering things off the motherboard
With the basic shape in the computer it's time to start modding stuff. What do we predict for this board? Pain.
To answer some of your, ahem, comments on the main story, behold the GameCube memory card ports. They are one of the thickest components in the entire system. This, coupled with the fact that they're aren't that essential is pretty much a death sentence in our book. Sorry, they got dropped.
So the plan here is to desolder most everything off the motherboard. To do this we're using our trusty el-cheapo Radio Shack desoldering iron. Make sure you have a nice new, clean tip since many of these connections are quite small. We usually buy a new tip per desoldering job, better to splurge a whole 2 bucks than pull your hair out (which wouldn't take us very long) working with a crappy tip.
After removing the memory card slot (to the dismay of all 15 GameCube fans) and the GameCube ports we move onto the USB ports. These are a bit trickier since they have large side tabs holding them in place.
The best method is to desolder the 8 data pins normally, then heat up the tabs and pry each corner of the USB port up a little at a time. We can use this same method for the audio / video / sensor bar jacks.
Reworking the Heat Sink
Ok one last thing to do in today's article: flatten the heat sink! The Wii-sink is pretty small as-is, but we need it to be a bit shorter. The general idea is if you set the disc drive back onto the Wii motherboard the heat sink shouldn't be higher than it. The drive is the "highest point" on the system, and everything else must be lower than it. Thus we need to flatten the heat sink by about a half inch.
Before we start, slide the carbon discs off the posts and set them aside. Also carefully remove the thermal pads and put them someplace safe, like on the motherboard chips.
Reattaching the Heat Sink
- Get four size 3 screws, washers and nuts from a hardware store. Length needs to be at least 3/8-inch long.
- Use a Dremel or other cutting tool to make notches in the fins so you can drop screws into the holes.
- Clean the bottom of the heat sink with rubbing alcohol or other agent to ensure a good surface.
- Put the carbon discs back onto the 4 posts.
- Carefully place the thermal pads back over the square markings.
- Place the heat sink back onto the motherboard and press firmly.
- Look under the heat sink from the side to make sure the thermal material is making a good bond.
- Use the screws to attach the heat sink to the motherboard. Be sure to tighten them evenly. To check, you can use a dial caliper to measure the height of the heat sink from the motherboard. The posts and carbon spacer discs should keep everything level, however.
Part 1 conclusion
Alright now we have the Wii rebuilt into a slightly smaller form. In the next How-To we'll reattach most of the ports, make a frame to properly secure the disk drive and design the case of the unit. See you next week!