Gifting a Console? Open it and Update Beforehand

One of the best gifts you can get someone for the holidays is a brand new game console. Whether it’s an Xbox, PlayStation or a brand new Nintendo Switch, nothing will make them thank Santa, Hannukah Harry or the Festivus Pole more than the ability to play all of their favorite video games -- once they spend an entire day updating their system, that is.

You read that right. Modern gaming isn’t as plug-and-play as the days when the Nintendo 64 kid was but a wee lad. These are complex computers that require constant patches and updates, and chances are that the one you bought is several versions behind.

So the best advice we can give you for a magical holiday? Open that new console up and install all of the updates before gifting it.

This is especially true of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, which can have very large updates. If possible, I’d recommend connecting them directly to an Ethernet jack for faster downloads, but it’s also a good idea to configure the console with your wireless network. A Switch will also have updates, but they’ll likely be smaller, since the operating system is pretty bare bones. Doing it before the holidays will likely mean faster updates, as servers will be pushed to their limits when hundreds or thousands of consoles are all updating at the same time.

Another thing you can do: install games that you’re giving. Even if you bought a physical PS4 or Xbox One disc, it can still take awhile for a game to install. It also gives you the chance to download a few games from the new console’s digital store if you’re doing away with DVDs. And once those games are installed, they might have updates, too.

You’ll also have the chance to set up accounts and customize preferences. This can be especially important if you’re giving to a younger child and want to implement parental controls. After all, nothing sucks the magic out of a new gift than having to actually watch your parents put shackles on it.

While you’re doing all of this, also make sure to charge your controllers. While Xbox controllers use AA batteries, you’ll want to have your PS4’s DualShock 4 or Switch’s Joy-Cons or Pro Controllers at full capacity.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can prepare accessories: sync extra controllers, install larger hard drives or microSD cards and, in the case of the Switch, put on a screen protector.

Of course, there’s one big caveat with all of this: make sure you have the system that the person you’re giving it to wants. Did they say Xbox One S or Xbox One X? You’re sure they wanted the Switch with neon Joy-Cons, right? Once you’ve started setting up your system, chances are you won’t be able to return it.

Carefully rebox everything and wrap it as usual. When whoever you’re giving the console to opens up their gift, it will be ready to play, with the latest updates installed and games ready to go. They’ll be able to spend their holiday playing video games instead of just watching status bars fill up. Talk about a holiday miracle.

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is an editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming as well as keeping up with the latest news. He holds a M.S. in Journalism (Digital Media) from Columbia University. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Kotaku, PCMag, Complex, Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag among others.