Essential Xbox One Tips
Microsoft's console lets you stream to Twitch, watch live TV and even beam your games to a Windows PC, and most of the system's best features require little more than a few button taps. From talking to Cortana to capturing screenshots and videos, here are 21 tips for getting the most out of your Xbox One.
Photo: Samuel C. Rutherford / Tom's Guide
Pin your games and apps
Using pins is a great way to easily access your favorite games and apps at all times. To pin something to your Xbox One's home screen, simply highlight it in the Games & Apps menu, press the Menu button, and select Pin to Home. You can jump right to your pins from the home screen by pressing the right trigger, and you can reorder pins using the Y button.
Take screenshots and videos
Whether you stumbled upon an amazing virtual vista or just pulled off a sick headshot, you can capture your best in-game moments by pressing the Guide button and tapping Y for a screenshot or X for a 30-second video. If you want to take longer videos, you can tap the View button from this menu to access the system's Game DVR.
If you're running the older Xbox software, you'll simply have to double-tap the Guide button to access the same capture controls. Alternatively, you can ask Cortana to "take a screenshot" or "record that" with your Kinect or headset.
Talk to Cortana
Just like on Windows 10 machines, you can use Cortana on Xbox One to navigate your system with voice commands. Once you have a Kinect or gaming headset connected, simply say, "Hey, Cortana," followed by whatever you want the virtual assistant to do. You can use Cortana to open apps and games, power down your Xbox, take screenshots and search the web, just to name a few examples. You should also probably ask Cortana some questions about Master Chief, just for fun.
Connect your cable box
Turning your Xbox One into your home entertainment hub is pretty simple. To start, connect your cable or satellite box to the system's HDMI-in port, or plug in a USB TV tuner. From there, select Live TV Setup from the system's OneGuide hub, and follow the prompts.
Share your clips to YouTube and Twitter
The Xbox One YouTube app makes it easy to flood your channel with your greatest gaming moments. Once you've downloaded the app and logged in, simply select Upload from the main menu, and pick a video from your hard drive to put on your channel.
You can share your clips and screenshots to Twitter via the Game DVR app, which also lets you share content to OneDrive, your activity feed or any clubs you're in.
Stream your gameplay to Beam and Twitch
If you want to showcase your Call of Duty skills or need some company for a spooky Resident Evil 7 run, you have a few easy options for broadcasting. You can stream to Twitch on Xbox One by downloading the free Twitch app and following a few quick steps. Folks with the latest Xbox One software update can also broadcast directly to Microsoft's Beam service, which you can access by tapping the Guide button and selecting the broadcast icon toward the bottom.
Track your achievements
Wondering how close you are to that elusive achievement? You can tap the Guide button and select the Achievements tab (look for the trophy icon) to check your progress. From this menu, you can also enable the Achievement Tracker, which lets you monitor your achievement progress via an in-game overlay that keeps you from having to constantly flip through menus.
Set a custom background
If you want your Xbox One to feel more personal, you can add custom backgrounds for a nice extra touch. To set one up, go to Settings > All Settings > Personalization > My color & background, and select My Background. You can use screenshots and unlocked achievement art as your background, or use a USB drive to upload any photo.
Upload a custom gamerpic
Want to replace that picture of Master Chief with a real-life selfie? You can customize your gamerpic in the beta version of the Windows 10 Xbox app. Once you have the app installed, simply click on your profile icon on the top left, select Customize, hover over your gamerpic and select Edit. If you click on "choose a custom picture," you can upload any picture from your hard drive to be your new gamerpic.
Note: Custom gamerpics need to be at least 1080 x 1080, and need to be approved by Microsoft before they show up on your profile.
Image: Tom's Guide/Microsoft
Customize your avatar
Your Xbox One avatar is a digital extension of your true self, so why not make it look as cool as possible? To customize your cartoony character, open the Xbox Avatars apps from the Games & Apps menu. You'll be able to put all sorts of outfits and accessories on your avatar, and you can take a fun photo of your avatar to serve as your gamerpic. If you want snazzier stuff, you can buy avatar items with real money from the avatar store.
Use game hubs
Xbox One's game hubs are one-stop locations for getting the most out of your favorite titles. To visit a game hub, simply highlight your game of choice, hit the Menu button and select "Go to game hub." From there, you can see how your achievements stack up against your friends’ and easily find related clubs and groups filled with like-minded gamers to team up with for your next Destiny raid or Halo match.
Remap your buttons
You can fully remap the buttons of your Xbox One controller, which is a nice feature for folks with physical limitations or anyone looking to make a custom control scheme for their favorite game. To do so, visit the Games & Apps menu, open the Xbox Accessories app and select Configure on your controller of choice. From there, you'll be free to alter the functions of every button and trigger, as well as swap the functions of each thumbstick. People with an Xbox One Elite Controller will have some extra customization options, such as stick sensitivity and vibration intensity.
Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide
Expand your storage
Your Xbox One's internal drive will fill up fast if you play lots of games, but expanding your storage is as simple as plugging a compatible hard drive into the system's USB port. Any external drive with at least 256GB of space and a USB 3.0 connection will work;for recommendations, check out our list of the best external hard drives for Xbox One and PS4.
Stream your games to Windows 10
Just because your spouse or kid is hogging the TV doesn't mean you have to stop gaming. You can stream your Xbox One games to just about any Windows 10 desktop, laptop or tablet using the Windows Xbox app, allowing you to binge on Halo 5 while the family catches up on Cake Wars. Just note that you can stream only within your home network.
Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide
Play your Xbox 360 games
You can play over 300 Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One, and you won't need any fancy extra software to do it. To play a supported Xbox 360 game on your Xbox One, simply pop the disc in, and give it a few minutes to install. Compatible Xbox 360 games you own digitally can be downloaded from the Games & Apps menu in the Ready to Install tab. Just make sure to transfer those saves!
Choose your power mode
Want to get automatic system updates and be able to download games while you're away from home? Just set your Xbox to instant-on mode. To do this, go to Settings > Power & Startup > Power Mode & Startup and select Instant-On. If you'd rather save on your power bill and aren't worried about automatic updates, stick with Energy Saving mode.
Image Credit: Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock
Use the Xbox mobile app
The free Xbox app for iOS and Android is an invaluable tool, allowing you to message friends and view your achievements on the go. It also serves as a remote control, letting you navigate your Xbox and type in text without dealing with any pesky on-screen keyboards. You can even use the app to buy games from the Xbox Store and have them waiting for you on your console when you get home.
Play music in the background
Whether you want a pump-up playlist for Gears of War 4 or some soothing tunes for your next Forza race, Xbox One makes it easy to play music in the background. Simply fire up a supported app, such as Pandora, Groove or iHeartRadio; pick your music; and open your game of choice. Your tracks will continue to play in the background as you game, and you can easily pause and skip tracks by tapping the Guide button.
Designate your home Xbox
Setting your Xbox One as your "home Xbox" allows you to share your digital games and Xbox Live Gold account with anyone who signs in on the system, which is especially useful if your whole family uses your Xbox One. To do so, select Settings > All Settings > Personalization and My home Xbox. Naturally, you can only make a single Xbox One your home Xbox.
Favorite your friends (and find new ones)
If you want to give your BFFs priority on your friends list, select their gamertag, pick Change Friendship and tick off the "Favorites" box. You'll get notified any time one of your "Favorite" friends comes online or starts broadcasting, and they'll always be at the top of your friends list.
Looking for more friends? You can visit the Suggestions section of your friends list from either your Xbox One or the Windows 10 Xbox App and select "Find Facebook friends." Once your account is linked, you just might discover one of your long-lost pals on Xbox.