No Solder, No Tools, No Trouble USB Wii Sensor Bar Conversion

Like many of my readers, I’m excited about the prospect of playing New Super Mario Brothers in 1080p with 16xAF and 8x AA and 3x the internal graphical resolution. Of course I’m not talking about the recently announced Wii 2, but the Dolphin emulator, which is currently running New Super Mario at a crisp 60fps with the above settings on my laptop. The wiimote and accessories connect fine via internal bluetooth, but what about the sensor bar? Turns out if you’ve bought yours recently you may not need anything other than a pair of scissors to convert yours to USB.


Read on to find out how!

If you search google for USB Wii sensor bar hack, you’ll find a ton of them. It’s easy to see why. The wii sensor bar is simply a 10-LED IR transmitter running at 7.5V, with no internal logic. Cracking open a Wii sensor bar made during the first few years of the Wii (and when the sensor bar hack tutorials seem to have been written), and you’ll find 2 simple 5-led IR series connected. The majority of hacks either stepped up the USB voltage to 7.5v with a battery or separate USB plug, but that is no longer necessary.

If you crack open a sensor bar made lately, you’ll see there’s been a change in design. I used a stock sensorbar that came with my (used) Wii, but I also purchased another to test (from Deal extreme here ) and it also has the new design. That’s particularly interesting, as the product image for the sensorbar on that page shows the original design. Four of the LEDs have been removed internally, meaning there are only three IR emitters on each side of the sensor bar. This is good news, as it means we no longer need the 7.5v line coming down from the wii, and should be able to get by with anywhere from 4.5 to 7 volts. As such, a stock usb line will work.

Take that pair of scissors I mentioned, and snip the sensorbar cable. Also find a usb cable, and snip that too. Twist together the yellow wire from the sensor bar to the silver shielding within the usb cable. Now twist the red wire from the usb cable to the red wire of the sensorbar cable. Tape together if you like, and you’re done. Thirty seconds to make a USB sensorbar (provided you’re cracking open a v2 sensorbar).

54 thoughts on “No Solder, No Tools, No Trouble USB Wii Sensor Bar Conversion

  1. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. I have the same model as u but i cant seem to get it to work. ive connected all the wires to the needed places like you say but still nothin. i need help!

    • It’s possible your model is using higher voltage LEDS. If you’ve got a soldering iron handy, you could try removing a couple of the LEDS and see if that frees up the necessary voltage. Also, make sure what you’re plugged into is supplying usb power to the device, some laptops etc won’t shoot power down a line unless they are active or mounted etc. Good luck!

  3. The old model Wii sensor bar used 22 ohm resistors if I remember correctly. This newer model likely has 47 ohm resistors to compensate for the lighter workload of 6 (as opposed to 10) LEDs on the same 7.5 volts. Merely hooking it up to a 5 volt power source is going to give you about 1/3 of the original output intensity on the LEDs.

    To bring it back up close to the original intensity, you could either remove one LED from each side (2 total) and bridge the gaps like you said, and this is going to give you 2/3 of the original output. Or if you’re willing to spend a couple bucks at Radio Shack, you could replace the 47 ohm resistors with 22 ohm ones and get an LED output very close to the original intensity, all while getting to keep all your LEDs.

    Of course, this is a “solder-free” guide…

    • Hey Jacob,

      Great info! I hadn’t noticed any loss of functionality with the reduced brightness of the LEDS but I have been playing really close to my laptop. Thanks for the heads up! I may just head over to RS tonight and get me some 22ohmRs!
      /H

  4. You guys are pretty smart…all this ohm stuff flies over my head. I have the old sensor bar, if I remove 4 of the 10 LEDs (and bridge the gaps), then do your simple mod, it should work fine right?

    Thanks again for this!

    • Hey Sean,

      Yep, but there’s not need to worry. Its not going to harm your LEDS from overvoltage off of 5v USB. As Jacob said though, the brightness will decrease as a result of this. I haven’t noticed any troubles from lower infrared output, but it’s something to be mindful of. Best of luck!

  5. Thanks Hunter! The mod was a success! Made the cable and used some heat shrink tubing to finalize/beautify it :)

    Since I have the old sensor bar from back in 2008, it had the 10 LEDs. I removed 4 LEDs total. (2nd and 4th LEDs from both sides). I clipped the LEDs off near actual clear plastic, then I bent the remaining pins towards each other then used a bit of solder to bridge the gap :)

    Was considering a wireless bar for the longest time but I knew the battery issue would prove to be annoying. This solution is perfect! The USB plugs right into the where the WiFi adaptor would go on my TV (which I’ll never use)

    Sticky taped the sensor bar upside down on the bottom of the TV, nice and slick. Can barely notice it.

    Thanks again hunter! Hopefully other find this helpful :)

    Take care.

    • Thanks a lot for this, I just have one question:

      Ive also got the old 10 led sensor bar.
      When you clip off the leds, do you have to combine the two pins that connected into the led? is that what “bridging is”? and do i have to use solder or can i just use pliers to squeeze them together???

      • Nope, (at least in the sensorbar versions I’ve seen) when you clip the LEDs you should be good to go, no need to connect the old leads.

        • Thanks for the quick reply!
          For some reason i still cant get it to work.. lights dont go on at all. ive connected the red cable from the sensor bar with the red cable from the USB plug… and the orange wire from the sensor bar to the tin foil looking thing from the USB cable… do i just leave out the green, white, black cables and the silver bushy wires from the USB cable? also is there need for grounding??

          • Hey Joe,

            Sounds like your sensorbar circuit may be closer to the one that Sean has seen. If so, (and it sounds like it is), then yeah go ahead and connect the pins. That is what Sean is referring to by ‘bridging the gap’, but not what I was referring to in my original post. Sorry for the confusion. Hope this helps!

            Best of luck!
            /H

  6. Hey hunter, nice tutorial :3 Tell me, can i use any usb cable? Like a broken cellphone usb or a usb extension? Also, what does that “bridge the gaps” thing means?
    My sensor bar is the old one!

    • Hey Andrew,

      Yep, you should be able to use any USB cable you have around, it is only using the power lines to my knowledge. When folks said ‘bridge the gaps’, they are generally referring to the ‘gaps’ between LEDS on the sensorbar or the gaps between the pins on the LEDS on the sensorbar. If you have the original 10 LED sensorbar and want to run it off of 5v, you’ll need to remove some LEDS. Removing some of the in-between LEDS can leave gaps in the sensorbar, which some folks compensate for by bending the LEDS slightly to ‘bridge the gap’. If this causes the leads from LEDS to be too short, you can ‘bridge the gap’ between lead and circuitboard with a bit of solder. Best of luck!

  7. This is brilliant. The wireless bars get such mixed reviews, I thought it would be a waste. Can I use an old ipod usb cable since it seems to be the only cable I can find at the length I want.

    • Sure, just take a small piece of metal and super-glue it to the screw. If you can get it glued on tight enough to unscrew, you’re set.

    • I jammed a tiny cheap flat head jewellers screwdriver into the tri-wing screws. It mangled both the screws and the screwdriver a little but worked well to undo and redo the screws.

  8. The sensor bar I have has 6 IR emitters, 3 on each side. There is a 22 Ohm resistor on each side can I just cut them out and bridge the gap? They seem a little dim.

    • Sorry WHAMMO, I can’t really say if the LEDs they put into the new sensor bars will handle that much voltage, as I don’t have one handy to test. They might, but they might not. If you bite the bullet and try, I’d be curious to know how it goes, or if the increased brightness causes any bleed-through on the sides of the casing, etc. Best of luck!

  9. Pingback: A Treasure Chest of Wii Goodness » HunterDavis.com

  10. easiest: you cut the cable of an usb device, you cut also the cable of the Sensor bar and you connect the red on the red and the black on the black… and connect all!

  11. FYI, I just attempted this with the sensor bar that came with my brand new Wii U and it wouldn’t work. I opened it up, and it has 5 LEDs on each side. So just because your sensor bar might be new, doesn’t mean it’s “v2″ as referenced here. I removed two LEDs from each side and got it working via USB.

    • Same here. Testing with my camera showed both my original Wii sensor bare and a newer one were both 10 led. Neither ran off usb or four AA batteries (5v) but would run fine off five AAS (7.5v) or a 9v battery. At first I suspected a dodgy usb cable but testing with four vs five AAs showed this wasn’t the case. Clipped off the four extra LEDs and it runs fine on 5v, 7.5v or 9v.

      A warning… When removing the LEDs it is very easy to wiggle the pins of the led being removed and break the solder/track. I did this and had to join the remaining LEDs with a tiny piece of wire between the legs of the LEDs. I harvested this from the green and white usb wires.

      • Thanks for the warning, sounds like that’s definitely something people picking up a Wii U should watch out for. Good info on the voltages too, thanks! I am kind of baffled that Nintendo once again chose not to use USB power for their sensor bar tech.

  12. I wish I would have seen this sooner, but I guess that’s life.

    I ended up doing a mod on a Nyko wireless sensor bar – removed the battery connections and just wired an old USB cable directly to the positive and negative wires, then drilled the backside of the WSB’s housing to feed a USB cable through. I also disabled the overly-bright power indicator and annoying loud “you’ve been playing for too long” timer, and everything works beautifully. The only problem I have left is to get the sensor bar to power up and power down with my TV set, but I have another one of these sensor bars to experiment with. Once it’s all done up, I’ll post some pictures on TinyPic and send you a link.

    • Hey Bill,

      Sounds like a good hack on your Nyko wireless sensor bar. Would definitely like to see the final results! I generally end up powering the sensor bar off the Wii I’ll be using it on (or the laptop for dolphin), but I know some TVs have powered USB ports for firmware updates, could be something to look into.

      Best of luck, and thanks for the info
      /H

      • Man, the sensor bar arrived with one of the 6 bulbs not soldered on properly, it wasnt lighting up. Fixed it though. And I’m not sure why you said to solder black to shielding. That wasn’t working for me. I just did pos to pos, gnd to gnd and it worked.

        • Mozgus,

          Nice on the sensor bar fix! It’s great knowing that even if your manufacturer screws up one can still get down in there with a soldering iron and get a better product than you purchased.

          Not sure why black to shielding wasn’t working for you, could be there are some new parts in there, or perhaps my shielding was incorrectly bridged to ground. Hard to say. Thanks for the follow-up! I’ll start recommending folks solder +>+, ->- as well.

          Best,
          /H

  13. just out of curiosity, is it possible to simply replace the resistor rather than yanking LEDs? i don’t mind a bit of soldering. my bar is only a couple years old but still has 5 lights. i would like minimize reducing the emission strength of my bar as much as possible.

    thanks for the great guide!

    • Yeah that should work ok. Just be careful with how much you drop the emission rate or as the ‘using the wiiMote as a mouse’ can get quite frustrating if the ir reception is intermittent.

  14. Ok hoping I understand this right…. Just to make sure let me ask this.
    I got this http://www.ebay.com/itm/Wireless-Ultra-Sensor-Bar-Extended-Play-Range-for-Wii-/130617071682?pt=Video_Games_Accessories&hash=item1e69625842 because my ex-wife let her dog eat the sensor bar and then trashed it then gave me my wii back im tired of the poor battery life now it only takes 2 AAA for a total of +3v can i wire the 3 volt and gnd of a usb cable to the batt terminals and be good powering it off the wii or should I use the 5 volt? or am I totaly wrong?

    • Hi Josh,

      A usb cable should have a 5v line. You MAY be ok with wiring a usb lead directly into the battery terminals, but without knowing the internals and power draw of that particular sensor bar I can’t say for certain.

      If you’re nervous, I’d measure the power draw and calculate how large a resistor you’ll need to drop the line down from 5v to 3v.

      If you don’t have a multi-meter, I’d try this:
      The standard wii sensor bar draws .085 amps.
      So for your wii sensor bar, if the current draw is 0.085 A, and you want to drop a power line from 5v to 3v, then resistor value is 2/0.085 = 23.5. Then to calculate the wattage you use 2v * .085a = .17 watts.

      Knowing that, you can probably bridge the line with a 20ohm,1/8 watt resistor. If you have trouble finding one, 20ohm 1/4 watt resistors are pretty common at places like Radio Shack and should be fine.

      • well i oped the sensor and it only has 4 irleds 2 on each side and then like i said it only uses 2 aaas i think im going to just use the 3v lines from the usb cable as i know the wii (at lest this one) always kicks out the 3v on the data side as i used it to run a cooling fan before when i first got it unless some one can tell me otherwise in the next few hours
        thank you for all info

      • well i oped the sensor and it only has 4 irleds 2 on each side and then like i said it only uses 2 aaas i think im going to just use the 3v lines from the usb cable as i know the wii (at lest this one) always kicks out the 3v on the data side as i used it to run a cooling fan before when i first got it unless some one can tell me otherwise in the next few hours
        and before i do it i will test the draw to make sure
        thank you for all info

    • Hey Chet, sorry for the late reply your comment got caught in my spam folder. See my above comment (likely .17 watts)

  15. i tried this exactly (even soldering the leads), and it doesn’t work. if i opened up the bar and soldered it to the interior circuit board, would it work? thanks.

    • Hey roflplat,
      It may work, yes. Without knowing why the original soldering job didn’t take it’s hard to say. Best of luck!

  16. I’ve tried this & had to solder the red to red & Black to the other wire without the solder it didn’t work, so try soldering if its not working peeps.

    Other than that it works fine up to about 1 m away any further & the Wii hand flickers & goes mental. My sensor bar has 3 LEDs either side so I’m guessing I’m not getting enough power to make them bright enough for the Wii controller to see them further away?
    What can I do to get more brighter bulbs?
    Remove a bulb either side? Won’t this effect accuracy?
    Change the resistors on the board? I’ve no idea what ones they are as I’m new to all this soldering stuff heh heh

    Thanks
    Steve

    • Hey Steve,

      Yep, you’re probably not getting enough power from USB for all 6 lights. If you’re looking to go further from your wii, you’re going to want the highest luminance possible for the amperage you’re getting from USB. The Wiimote actually sees each group of 3 LEDs as one, so if removing a LED from each side makes it brighter overall then your accuracy will actually increase. If you’re new to soldering, i’d skip swapping the resistors. Probably easier just to find another model of sensor bar on eBay/craigslist.

      Best of luck!
      /H

    • I’m pretty sure it depends on the program/driver you are using. You could potentially use dolphin to emulate the wii and adjust sensitivity there.

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