11 ways to power up your gaming on the Xbox Series X / S

If you own an Xbox Series X or an Xbox Series S, and especially if you just got one, you might not spend a whole lot of time on the menu screens before diving into your games — but there are plenty of useful features and options that are worth exploring.

Here, we’ll highlight 11 of the most useful settings that cover everything from screenshots to eye strain to audio output. You can find all of them in the Settings section of the Xbox interface.

Mute notification audio

If you’re listening carefully for important sounds during gameplay, you don’t necessarily want to be distracted by pings from the console’s notification system. To turn these sounds off: 

  • Head to General > Volume & audio output > Additional options.
  • Check the Mute notification sounds option.

Choose your own background

Don’t settle for the default look when it comes to your Xbox interface: as on Windows and macOS, you can drop in your own background wallpaper if you want to. 

  • Select General > Personalization > My background.
  • Choose a background from your screenshot library or from any folder on your Xbox.

You can choose a screenshot to set as your background.

Calibrate your TV

Most of the time — in theory — your Xbox console and your television set will effectively communicate what they need from each other, so you shouldn’t have to do too much in the way of customization.

One setting worth working your way through, however, is the TV calibration screen. 

  • From the General screen, choose TV & display options > Calibrate TV
  • Make sure your TV remote is to hand, then select Next and follow the instructions on screen.

The settings covered here include aspect ratio, picture sharpness, and display brightness. You’ll be told which options to tweak and how to do it on your particular TV model.

Change what you’re sharing with other people

Gaming is often a shared experience nowadays, but you should make sure you’re not sharing anything you don’t want to.

  • Open Account > Privacy & online safety > Xbox privacy.
  • The settings behind View details & customize let you control who is able to see if you’re online, who can see what you’re currently playing, who can invite you to multiplayer games, and more. There are also settings related to who can communicate with you over voice and text.

You might not actually use all of these features, but it’s worth doing a privacy audit and making sure these options are set up as you’d like them to be.

Control what other gamers can see of your activity.

Remap the controller buttons

It’s possible that you may want to remap your controller’s buttons — for example, a game that requires you to repetitively press the same button can cause cramping, or you may have more dexterity using different fingers. Luckily, you don’t have to stick with the out-of-the-box settings when it comes to your Xbox wireless controller. Here’s how to remap the buttons. 

  • Pick Devices & connections > Accessories and select your controller.
  • Now you can choose what each button does, swap the triggers over, swap the joysticks over, and invert the Y axis on each joystick.

Get reminders to take breaks

Here’s a lesser-known feature on the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S: if you feel that you’re spending a little too much time gaming, you can have your console suggest you take a break after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

  • Select Preferences > Break reminder.
  • You’ll then be able to get an alert every 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, or 120 minutes. 

Of course, once you set your alerts, you can just ignore them, but it might be the push you need to take a bit of time away.

Give your eyes a rest at night

Your console has a special night mode that you can use to reduce the light emitted by the console in the evening — the idea being that it’s then easier for you to get to sleep afterward, though your mileage may vary.

  • To enable the mode, head to Accessibility > Night mode. You can then turn the mode on manually or set it to run on a schedule. 
  • The settings panel to the right lets you customize the level of dimming, including on the controller and console power buttons.

Your Xbox comes with an optional night mode.

Lock down your console security

If you’ve got housemates or young children who may get access to your Xbox, you don’t want them potentially ruining your high scores or buying games on your behalf when you’re not around. On the other hand, if you live alone, you probably want the convenience of not having to sign in every time you start up your console.

  • To pick the right balance for you when it comes to console security, open Account > Sign-in, security & PIN > Change my sign-in & security preferences
  • You then have a number of options, including automatic sign-in; no password or PIN required; PIN required just to sign in; PIN required to sign in, change settings, or buy a game; or a password required for pretty much everything. You can also specify which actions need a PIN or password.

Review your power options

You don’t want your Xbox using any more electricity than it needs to — both for the sake of your energy bill and the planet. You can customize this by heading to General > Power options.

  • There are two main modes to choose from, and Microsoft recently switched all Xbox consoles over to the more energy-efficient one by default. In this Shut-down (energy saving) mode, the console turns off completely for long stretches rather than going into a low power mode. 
  • If you need to, you can go back to the Sleep option.
  • Further settings can be accessed via Customize power options. Keep your eye on the power use indicator on the right, which will tell you how much energy your console is using when it’s not on.

Tweak your capture settings

Recording a video clip of gameplay or snapping a screenshot is straightforward enough on the Xbox consoles, but you should make sure you’re capturing content in the quality and at the length that you want.

  • Head to Preferences > Capture & share.
  • Here, you can change the resolution and length of video clip captures, choose where screenshots are saved, and even disable captures, as well as customizing what the Share button on the controller actually does.

Set up a digital assistant

You can set up Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to interact with your Xbox console, meaning you’re able to use voice controls to turn your gaming machine on and off, take screenshots, launch games, and more besides.

  • To get started, go to Devices & connections > Digital assistants.
  • Check the Enable digital assistants box.

You’ll then need to install the Google Home app for Android or iOS, or the Amazon Alexa app for Android or iOS, on your phone. The instructions for both are shown on the same screen in the Xbox settings.


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