We put together this quick guide for new Xbox owners to get their new systems up and running. Surely you’re biting at the nail to hop into some next-gen gaming, so let’s get started!
Save your games to the cloud
If you are upgrading from an Xbox One console, there’s one critical step to take before you unplug it and shove it in a closet somewhere to be forgotten. Those without a last-gen Xbox can skip ahead to the next section.
One of the best things about Microsoft’s approach is its focus on backward compatibility. You can play pretty much any game from all previous generations of Xbox, but that doesn’t mean your save data goes along with it.
Any games that you plan on continuing to play should be saved to the cloud unless you want to start over. The good news is this happens automatically while you’re connected to Xbox Live. Your save syncs every time you leave a game. You don’t even need an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
If for whatever reason you haven’t had your console connected to the internet, connect it one more time and boot up your games just in case. You can check (or delete) your cloud saves from the home menu, as well. Navigate to My Games & Apps, press the menu button on your controller, then select Manage game & add-ons. You can see all save data by ticking the Saved data box.
Skipping the Xbox One and upgrading from an Xbox 360? You may need to turn on cloud saves manually. Learn more about how to do that here.
Set up and update your console
If you haven’t yet set up your console before reading this, kudos on your patience. But now is the time to pop open the box and plug everything in. Once connected, the console will need to update before you can use it. And that may take a few hours.
Before you plug it in, you should take a moment to figure out where the console will live. Sure, you can plop it on the ground and call it good, but that’s just asking for damage from dust, spills, or overzealous pets.
Both the Xbox Series X and S can be placed horizontally or vertically, but they need some space to breathe. Microsoft recommends leaving a minimum of 4-6 inches of clearance on each side (including the top). You should also avoid putting other objects on or near the console itself. Enclosed cabinets are also a big no-no.
The easiest way to set up your new Xbox is with the Xbox app on Android and iOS.
It’s also worth noting that you should use the 2-meter Ultra High Speed HDMI cable included in the box. This cable is required for 4K 120fps output on the XSX. Using a non-certified Ultra High Speed HDMI cable may lead to worse video performance. The Xbox Series S is less demanding and uses a standard High Speed HDMI cable, which is easier to replace in a pinch.
Once everything is plugged in, the easiest way to get the console ready is with the Xbox app for Android or iOS. Follow the instructions on the app and your new Xbox console and you’ll be finished in no time. Or rather, updating your console in no time. Use that time to read the rest of this guide!
Adjust your TV and display settings
The new Xbox consoles can deliver incredible visuals, but only if your TV (or monitor) can handle them. Depending on the make and model, you may need to adjust your TV settings to accommodate higher resolutions, higher framerates, or even special features like HDR. It may even be the case that you need to plug your console into a specific HDMI port in order to get the best performance.
Fortunately, the Xbox makes it easy to see what you’re working with. If you navigate to the TV & Display options in the settings, then choose 4K TV details, it will show what is currently possible with your TV. From there you’ll need to dig around in both your Xbox and TV settings to get optimal visual performance.
And if you’re playing on a 1080p 60Hz TV or monitor, it’s past time to think about an upgrade.
Get some games
One of the disadvantages of getting a console near its release date is that you can’t take advantage of any bundles that include must-play games. Of course, you can still play the best Xbox One games thanks to backward compatibility. You can download them right away, pop in the disc, or even just plug in an external hard drive with your games already installed.
To get the most out of your next-gen hardware, you’ll need some next-gen games. It will be a while before big first-party titles like Halo Infinite and Perfect Dark come out, but there are plenty of XSX-optimized games available today. Check out the best of them (and what’s coming soon) in the article below.
If you have no idea where to even start, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate remains one of the best deals in gaming. For $15 a month (or less if you convert from an existing Xbox Live subscription), you gain access to well over 100 triple-A games from Microsoft’s first-party studios, EA, and others, as well as a subscription to Xbox Live Gold to play your favorite games online with friends.
The selection is truly incredible, and it covers the best of the Xbox One era and more. Plus, all future Microsoft titles are added on day one. It’s already an unbeatable deal for console gamers, and the value just keeps growing as time goes on. If you don’t need the game library you’ll still need Xbox Live Gold to play online, which costs $9.99 a month on its own.
Install your favorite streaming apps
Microsoft has long wanted its consoles to be a one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs. Now that streaming is the primary form of entertainment for many households, that dream can finally come true.
Apps for Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV, HBO Max, CBS All Access, and many, many more are available free of charge (not including the subscription, of course). Most popular music apps can also be found, including Spotify, Pandora, and others.
It’s also worth noting that although the Xbox Series S does not support 4K output for games, it does for streaming content. Rest assured that you can enjoy 4K HDR content on both variants of the new Xbox consoles!
Grab a second controller and other accessories
Couch co-op is one of the defining features of console gaming, but if you want your friends and family to get in on the action you’ll need a second controller. You’ve got a few options here, starting with the standard Xbox Wireless controller, which runs about $60.
But if you can afford it, it’s worth shelling out the extra money for an Xbox Elite Controller Series 2. It’s the ultimate customizable controller, allowing you to change the thumbsticks, triggers, and rear paddles to suit your preferences. Leave the standard controller for your player two! Either way, grab a Play and Charge kit to avoid paying for batteries in the future.
The new Xbox Series X comes with 1TB of onboard storage, but eventually you’ll need to invest in more. There you’ve got two main options. The first is the official Seagate expansion card, which adds a whopping 1TB of storage that matches the speed of the built-in SSD. If that’s too pricey, an external HDD will give you a cheaper storage boost, but without the incredible load times.