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The FAQ for the Wii U regarding external storage recommends that you use an external hard drive with a dedicated power source, but is the dedicated power source absolutely necessary? I want to know, because I have an extra external hard drive lying around that doesn't connect to an external power source, and I am wondering if it will work.

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According to Nintendo support, a dedicated power source is not necessary, but recommended.

Can bus-powered hard disc drives be used with Wii U?

Some bus-powered hard disc drives draw more current than the USB 2.0 specification and might not run stably, so we cannot guarantee that such devices will run properly on Wii U without the use of a supplemental power cable called a y-cable that draws power from two USB ports. For best results, we recommend using a external storage device with its own power supply that connects to the Wii U system via the USB port on the console.

Emphasis mine.


From the above quote, it appears that although the use of a y-cable is already good enough, you might still encounter a drive requiring more power than even two USB 2.0 ports together can officially provide.

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To clarify definitions for my answer (as this is atleast relative to how they are packaged here, in Australia), external hard drives are the bigger units that have a dedicated power source, while portable hard drives are smaller, and power from the USB connection.

Note that Nintendo only recommend an external hard drive, and do not list it as a hard requirement.

The Wii-U can support portable hard drives, however, an external is simply more efficient.

I can think of two reasons off the top of my head.

  1. Not requiring the Wii-U to power the hard drive is simply one less thing it is doing. This will have an arguabley insignificant impact on performance and/or reliability.
  2. Generally speaking, it is easier to obtain larger hard drives in external format. Larger hard drives hold more games.
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  • Theres also an easy way to test this, in the future, off sight, alone. Will update with pictures to demonstrate when I can.
    – user106385
    Dec 12, 2015 at 1:27
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So, when I tried plugging in a hard drive with no external power to the Wii U it blew out the power source for the Wii U and we had to replace it. So, a hard drive with no dedicated power source will pull too much power from the Wii U and blow the power source.

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