If you’re the proud owner of a new Xbox Series X or Series S console, then it’s time to dig into those settings to make the most of it. We’ve got some handy tips to help you get started and some lesser-known features worth checking out.
Looking for ways to pad out your new system? Read our Best Gaming Headsets, Best Wireless Gaming Headsets, and Best Gifts for Xbox Owners guides for our top picks. If you got a Series S and are confused about the differences, here’s a breakdown.
Updated February 2022: We added five new tips, including how to be a co-pilot, find free games, and choose notifications.
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1. Get the Xbox Mobile App
The redesigned Xbox app for Android or iOS is essential. If you haven’t set up your new Xbox yet, the app is the easiest way to do it. It also gives you access to your friends and chat, enables you to choose games and trigger downloads remotely, and offers access to screenshots and captured gameplay videos from your Xbox for easy sharing. Best of all, you can use Xbox Remote Play to stream games from your console to your phone or tablet (more on that later).
2. Customize Your Home Screen and Guide
There’s no need to live with the default home screen when you can customize it. On the home screen, press the View button (the one on the left that looks like two windows) and you’ll bring up the Customize Home settings. You can set up your preferred order, choose colors, backgrounds, and even themes. In Theme & Motion, you can select light or dark themes, or have things change automatically based on the time of day.
An option you don’t want to miss is Customize the Guide, which allows you to choose the order of everything in the guide that pops up every time you press the Xbox button.
3. Transfer Games From Your Xbox One
You can find any old games you own from your previous Xbox console by pressing the Xbox button and selecting My Games & Apps > Full Library > All Owned Games. While you can download any of these games, it will be much faster to transfer them from your old console. To do this, make sure your Xbox One and your new Series X or S are turned on and connected to the same Wi-Fi network. On your new Xbox, go to Settings > System > Backup and Transfer > Network Transfer, then check the option, select your old console, choose what you want to copy over, and then click Copy Selected to start the process.
4. Choose the Right Display Settings
To make the most of your new console’s capabilities, you should ensure your display is set up optimally. You can do this in Settings > General > TV & Display Options, where you’ll find everything from resolution settings to refresh rate to HDR calibration. Check 4K TV details to find out what your TV can do and make sure to run through the calibration process. If you don’t think you’re getting the full capability, then check your cable and the port you’re plugging into on your TV to make sure that both support HDMI 2.1 (only newer TV models have support for HDMI 2.1).
5. Customize Your Controller
You can set up your controller preferences to dictate what each button should do, invert controls, or change the vibration intensity. To choose all of this and more, go to Settings > Devices & Connections and choose Accessories and Configure. You have the option of saving multiple profiles with different control schemes, so you can set a special layout for shooters and another for flight simulators, for example.
6. Link Your Controller to Your Profile
Maybe you have a special controller. Perhaps you’re phobic about the greasy hands of whoever you share the console with, or maybe you just want to save a few seconds with an automatic sign-in. Whatever your reason, you can link your controller to your profile, which means you can simply turn your controller on, and the Xbox will sign you in automatically. To do this, use the controller you want to link and go to Settings > Account > Sign-In, Security & Passkey and find the This Controller Signs In option.
7. Use Your Old Controllers
While we’re on the topic of controllers, don’t forget you can use any old Xbox One controllers lying around with your new console. They’re easy to link. Hold down the small, circular button next to the USB port on your new console until the power button starts to flash, then hold down the small, circular button on the top of the Xbox One controller until the Xbox button starts to flash. When the flashing stops, they’re synced and ready to go.
8. Play Blu-rays on Your Xbox Series X
Your Xbox Series X can double up as a 4K Blu-ray player, but it doesn’t have the necessary app installed by default. You can choose to download it from the Microsoft Store, but you’ll also be prompted to do so when you first insert a Blu-ray disc. If you have a decent home theater setup, then head into Settings > Devices & Connections > Blu-ray, and turn on Let My Receiver Decode Audio.
9. Save Power
If you head into Settings > General > Power Mode & Startup, this is where you can decide how long you have to be inactive for the console to turn off (it defaults to one hour). You can also choose between Instant-On and Energy-Saving under Power mode. If you want to control your console remotely, turn it on with voice commands, and get into the action as quickly as possible, go for Instant-On. If you want to save power, then opt for the latter.
10. Capture Screenshots and Videos (or Don’t)
You can fine-tune your capture settings by going to Settings > Preferences > Capture & Share. Set the length of gameplay video to capture, the preferred quality, where they should be saved, and whether you want to upload clips to the cloud for easy access in the Xbox mobile app. You can also tap Button Mapping to decide exactly how the Share button works. While you can capture in 4K with HDR, remember that these video files will take up more space.
If you don’t care about captures, it’s worth turning them off completely by setting Allow Game Captures to Don’t Capture.
11. Set a Break Reminder
It’s easy to get lost in games for hours at a time, which can lead to aching joints, tired eyes, and full bladders. To make sure you come up for air periodically, you can set reminders to take breaks. Open up Settings > Preferences > Break Reminder. Every half hour might be a bit much, but you can choose in 30-minute intervals up to every two hours. You’ll get a pop-up notification to take a break on that schedule.
12. Get More Storage Space
You can plug any USB 3.1 external hard drive into your new Xbox and use it to store games, screenshots, and videos. You can also buy a Microsoft-approved 1-terabyte Seagate Storage Expansion Card ($220), which purportedly matches the speed and performance of the Xbox’s internal solid-state drive (SSD).
13. Control Your Xbox With Google Assistant or Alexa
Bring a smoother, more futuristic feel to your Xbox with voice commands. Open Settings > Devices & Connections > Digital Assistants. Tick Enable digital assistants then follow the relevant instructions to get started with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, whichever you prefer. Once set up, you can ask Google Assistant or Alexa to turn your Xbox on and off, launch specific games, pause movies, and a handful of other things. Check out our Best Smart Speakers guide so you can make these commands before even entering the living room.
14. Find Optimized Games for the Series X or S
Some games have been optimized for the Xbox Series X and S, which means enhanced graphics, higher frame rates, and faster load times. Games that support Smart Delivery should automatically update on your new console, and you’ll see an X/S icon on the game cover in your library. You can see them all by going to My Games & Apps > Games and select Group by Console Type from the filter at the top. You can also filter games in the store by tapping X to open Filter by and choosing Xbox One X/S Enhanced under Capabilities. You can find a list of optimized games on the Xbox website, too.
15. Set Up Remote Play
You can play games on your Xbox Series X or Series S remotely on an Android phone or tablet, or on an iPhone or iPad, which is handy if someone else is sick of you hogging the big TV. To try it, go to Settings > Devices & Connections, and check the box to enable Remote Features on your Xbox. You also have to set the power mode in General > Power Mode & Startup to Instant-on. When that’s done, open the mobile app on your phone or tablet and tap My Library > Consoles and tap Connect beneath your Xbox Series X or S. You can also remote play on a Windows 10 computer or laptop by opening the Xbox app for PC, clicking the Consoles icon and selecting your Xbox.
16. Be a Co-pilot
The co-pilot feature lets you use two controllers as if they were a single controller, with both having full control of the on-screen action, which can be very handy if a player needs help. To turn it on, press the Xbox button to bring up the guide, and choose Profile & system > Settings > Accessibility > Controller. Pick Co-pilot settings, select Turn on Co-pilot, and choose your co-pilot’s controller. You can turn it off again in the same menu.
17. Join Xbox Game Pass
There are several game subscription services to choose from, but Xbox Game Pass gives you the most for your money. We recommend Game Pass Ultimate at $15 per month as it provides a large library of great games (with new releases rolling out regularly) on Xbox, PC, or mobile devices. It also includes perks, deals, cloud gaming, and EA Play titles. If you only plan to play on Xbox, save yourself $5 and go for Game Pass for Console. Just about the only thing that Xbox’s service lacks is a proper family game plan, but there are ways to play together, and it’s a phenomenal deal.
18. Find Free Games
Gaming can be expensive. If you want something to play, but don’t want to spend more money, there are some excellent free Xbox games available; the multiplayer part of Halo: Infinite is completely free, for example. To find more, open the Store app, go to Games and select Top Free. You can also select Search and type “free” into the box to get the full list.
19. Collect and Use Microsoft Rewards
You can sign up for Microsoft Rewards for free with your Microsoft account. You earn points for different activities, including playing games on your Xbox and unlocking achievements. You can also earn points for using Microsoft’s Bing search, spending money with Microsoft (games, movies, subscriptions), and even taking quizzes. Points can be redeemed to enter contests, get gift cards, or make donations to good causes. But it does take a long time to build up a decent total.
20. Stop Annoying Pop-Up Notifications
Pop-ups can be distracting when you’re gaming or watching a movie on your Xbox, and there are some notifications that you likely don’t care about receiving at all. Press the Xbox button to bring up the guide and select Profile & system at the top, then Settings > Preferences > Notifications. Take a look at Xbox notifications, and you can decide on the notifications you want to receive and create different rules for them. It is also worth doing in the Xbox app on your phone (if you installed it) by tapping your Gamertag, then Settings > Notifications.
Now that you’ve configured your new Xbox, dive in and play some of the best Xbox Series X/S games!
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