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How to play Xbox One games on your Windows 10 PC

Dan Baker/Digital TrendsThe Xbox brand is steadily on its way to becoming an expansive platform rather than a single, dedicated gaming device. With the arrival of Play Anywhere, streaming games to a Windows 10 device has become almost effortless.

With Xbox One and PC in hand, this nifty guide has been designed to show you how to properly configure both pieces of hardware with the intent of streaming games in less stationary locations. Keep in mind, however, that Microsoft only recommends streaming to a device with a 1.5GHz CPU or better, and a minimum of 2GB of RAM over a home network connection.

First – check if streaming is necessary

You may not need to stream at all. A certain number of Xbox games are also available as downloadable apps on Windows 10. Because Xbox and Windows 10 play so well together, your data from these games will sync with your console. Play the game on your PC, and your progress will transfer over to your Xbox whenever you’re ready to hop back on the couch — no streaming required.

To begin, just log into your PC, open up the Start menu, and select All Apps. Since you’re signed into the same Microsoft Account that you use for Xbox, Windows may have already downloaded some of your games. Look through the list to see if your preferred game is there.

If you can’t find a game, you can also head over to the Microsoft Store and look up a specific title to see if it’s available for download. Make sure you are in the Windows game section. You can double-check if crossplay is enabled by scrolling down to Available on in any game’s webpage. Compatible games will be available on both Xbox One and PC.

Streaming on a Windows 10 PC

First, make sure your Xbox One and the Windows 10 PC you’re streaming to are up to date. To do this in Windows 10, click the Start button in the lower-left corner of your screen and search “Check for updates” in the text field. This can also be accomplished by clicking the Start button, clicking the gear icon in the left-hand strip, and clicking Update & security.

Xbox One updates, on the other hand, install automatically. Just make sure you’re connected to the internet and that the OS version in Settings > System > Console info matches Microsoft’s most recent edition.

Enabling game streaming

After installing the updates, the first thing you’ll want to do is turn on your Xbox One and navigate to the Settings app, either by locating it in My games & apps or by pressing Menu on the controller — this is the same button we used to call Start, directly to the left of the “X.” Afterward, select Settings.

In the Settings app, choose Preferences, and make sure there’s a check mark beside Allow game streaming to other devices under the System & App column. This option was enabled by default on our Xbox, so you might not have to do anything at all. Still, it doesn’t hurt to check.

Connecting to your Xbox One

On your PC, download the Xbox Console Companion App, which helps to control the connection between your PC and Xbox. This may already be automatically downloaded on your computer.

Afterward, make sure the Gamertag in the Xbox app matches that of your Xbox One console, and select Connection toward the bottom of the left-hand panel. You should see an icon that depicts an Xbox One with waves protruding from it. A new screen will then open, prompting you to Add a device. If it lists your Xbox One console, select Connect. Otherwise, you’ll have to manually enter the IP address in the corresponding location.

In the event that this is necessary, your console’s IP address can be found in Settings > Network > Advanced Settings.

Connecting a controller

With your PC or tablet connected to your console, you should see several new options, including Stream and Test streaming. Though it may be tempting to dive head first into the streaming abyss, you’ll want to make sure that you have a controller connected to your PC or tablet.

You can grab one of your Xbox One controllers and connect it to the Windows 10 PC using a Micro USB to USB Type-A cable. If you want a wireless option, that same Xbox One controller can be used with Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows, which sells for roughly $20 on Amazon. There’s also a few rare systems, like Microsoft’s Surface Studio, which ship with a built-in Xbox Wireless Adapter.

Keep in mind that you aren’t required to specifically use an Xbox One controller — Xbox 360 controllers work just fine with streaming in Windows 10. What’s more, you can head down to Walmart and purchase a wired Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller for a lower price. PDP Rock Candy, PDP Afterglow, Thrustmaster, and PowerA all produce third-party offerings, which cost less than Microsoft’s proprietary gamepads.

Finally, you can take the financial plunge and purchase the new, updated Xbox One controller that arrived alongside the Xbox One S last year. This model can be purchased on Amazon for around $45, though we’re fond of the more expensive Ocean Shadow Special Edition ($60) and the Dawn Shadow Special Edition ($54).

If you do purchase a new Xbox One controller, however, it can connect to your Windows 10 PC using a Micro USB to USB Type-A cable, Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows, or by way of Bluetooth. If your Windows 10 PC doesn’t have Bluetooth, you can get a small adapter that plugs directly into a USB 2.0 port for relatively cheap, such as this Asus model ($13).

At this point, if you haven’t already, it’s time to connect your Xbox One controller to your Windows 10 PC and start the streaming process.

Time to stream, at long last

Once connected, you should be free to select Stream and begin playing Xbox One games on your PC. When streaming, there are a number of options displayed in the toolbar near the top of the screen. On the far right, you can manage your streaming quality, which ranges from Low to Very High. By default, however, it’s set to Medium.

Next to that is a utility that displays Total Bandwidth, along with Last, Average, and Max recorded bandwidth measurements. To the right of that is a Stop streaming option — a button that toggles your mic on and off when pressed — along with an Xbox button, which can be used in conjunction with a mouse or by tapping it with your finger on a touchscreen display.

Streaming to an Oculus Rift

If you weren’t already aware, a trimmed-down version of the Xbox app recently made its way to the Oculus Rift. The application, named “Xbox One Streaming to Oculus Rift,” is free in the Oculus Store, and allows you to toggle between three different VR environments (“Citadel,” “Retreat,” and “Dome”).

Thankfully, the process for connecting and streaming from your Xbox One console to a Rift headset is the exact same as from an Xbox One to a PC. Just ensure that your Oculus-connected PC and Xbox One are a part of the same home network, and voilà, you’ll playing on a massive virtual screen. The instructions for setting up the connection are detailed on the first page of this guide.

Getting the best performance

For starters, the Xbox One and Xbox One S consoles have a dual-band Wireless N component. This means they can connect to the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band, if your router offers both. Theoretically, the 5Ghz option makes for the ideal connection because it’s less “congested” and offers faster speeds. But the wireless performance between the Xbox One to the router in addition to the wireless connection between the router and the Windows 10 device is at the mercy of your physical environment.

That said, the physical location of both your Xbox One and Windows 10 PC in relation to the router is extremely important. The 2.4GHz band is great for penetrating walls and thick objects, but again, it’s also likely the default wireless connection for many devices in your home. Thus, the 2.4GHz band is not only congested, it’s typically incapable of reaching its maximum theoretical Wireless N speed of 300 megabits per second.

The 5GHz band, on the other hand, offers a theoretical Wireless N speed of up to 450 megabits per second. That’s somewhat better, and this lane is nowhere near as crowded as the 2.4Ghz band.

The drawback is that the 5GHz band isn’t as good in penetrating walls and solid objects. Thus, to use the 5GHz band and create a solid connection for streaming Xbox One games, the Xbox One should be near the router. The same goes for your Windows 10 PC, assuming it also relies on a Wireless N component.

Wired connections yield the best results

Mesh-based networking systems replace the standard router to cover your entire home in wireless connectivity. Whereas a single router broadcasts both bands from a single point — which degrades the further out the signal travels — mesh-based systems typically consist of a kit of three or more units that can be spread throughout your home. Together, they create a “web” for getting around obstacles and solid objects that tend to degrade connectivity. Examples of these mesh-based systems include Eero, Luma, and Google WiFi.

But for the best performance possible, your Xbox One — and possibly your Windows 10 PC — should be connected to the router through a wired connection. That’s not the ideal connection, we know, especially if you want to stream Xbox One games in the bedroom and the console is seated in your living room. That’s where PowerLine adapters come in.

Instead of throwing network signals in the air, PowerLine technology passes the data through the home’s electrical system, eliminating the need to drape Ethernet lines along the baseboards. These devices are typically sold in a kit of two and plug directly into an electrical outlet while providing a pass-through outlet in the process, meaning you’re not losing an electrical plug. It’s an alternative you can learn more about with our handy guide.

Finally, Microsoft also lists a variety of additional options on its support site, many of which are designed to improve streaming performance, so you may want to check them out here if the aforementioned suggestions don’t alleviate the problem.

Xbox Console Streaming

Mark Knapp/Digital Trends

Not satisfied with Windows 10? There are remote streaming options that allow you to play Xbox games at a distance, from other devices like Android tablets or iPads. It’s generally under the umbrella of Project xCloud. To begin, navigate to the xCloud webpage and sign up to register. You’ll need a 5Ghz Wi-Fi or strong mobile data connection to play, and you’ll need to download the corresponding Xbox Game Streaming app for your device.

Keep in mind this is still mostly in beta mode, so some parts may be a little buggy, and you probably won’t want to play games where twitchy reflexes are required, just in case your signal drops. In the coming year we expect Microsoft to expand and stabilize this streaming program to make it much more available.

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