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HandWiki. Xbox One System Software. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 18 April 2024).
HandWiki. Xbox One System Software. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 18, 2024.
HandWiki. "Xbox One System Software" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 18, 2024).
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HandWiki. "Xbox One System Software." Encyclopedia. Web. 03 November, 2022.
Xbox One System Software

The Xbox One system software, sometimes called the Xbox OS, or Xbox Dashboard (when a person is referring to software updates), is the operating system developed exclusively for the Xbox One consoles. It is a Microsoft Windows-based operating system using the Hyper-V virtual machine monitor and contains separate operating systems for games and applications that can run on the console. It is located on the internal HDD for day-to-day usage, while also being duplicated on the internal NAND storage of the console for recovery purposes and factory reset functionality. The Xbox One allows users to download applications that add to the functionality of the dashboard. From June 2014 onwards, entertainment apps no longer required the user to be signed into a valid Xbox Live Gold account in order to use the features advertised for the given app. Since launch, Microsoft has been updating the OS monthly, with updates downloaded from the Xbox Live service directly to the Xbox One and subsequently installed, or by using offline recovery images downloaded via a PC. In November 2015, a major system update known as the New Xbox One Experience was released, which brought very significant changes to the design and functionality of the system. The Windows 10-based Core had replaced the Windows 8-based one in this update, and the new system is sometimes referred to as "Windows 10 on Xbox One".

virtual machine hyper-v dashboard

1. Technology

1.1. System

The Xbox One console runs on an operating system that includes the Windows 10 core, although initially it included the Windows 8 core at the Xbox One's release. The Xbox One system software contains a heavily modified Hyper-V hypervisor (known as NanoVisor) as its host OS and two partitions. One of the partitions, the "Exclusive" partition is a custom virtual machine (VM) for games; the other partition, the "Shared" partition is a custom VM for running multiple apps. The Shared Partition contained the Windows 8 Core at launch until November 2015, where via a system update known as the "New Xbox One Experience", it was upgraded to the Windows 10 Core. With Windows 10, Universal Windows Platform apps became available on Xbox One. According to the current head of Microsoft's Gaming division, Phil Spencer, "The importance of entertainment and games to the Windows ecosystem has become really prevalent to the company".[1] The program that Microsoft launched allows developers to build a single app that can run on a wide variety of devices, including personal computers and Xbox One video game consoles.[2] According to Polygon, Microsoft removed the distinction between Xbox One and Windows PC.[1]

Starting in February 2014, Microsoft invited select users to join a preview program that enables them to receive early builds of upcoming system updates and experiment with the features prior to the public launch of the software. Once registered for the Xbox One Preview Program, participants can test the early features included in the update, provide feedback on a private forum and can opt out of future waves.[3] Through its Xbox Feedback website, Microsoft has been soliciting input from consumers on its features and taking requests for future additions to the console. Low battery notifications and Blu-ray 3D support are two examples of ideas that have been among the top vote-getters on the site.[4]

1.2. User Interface

The Xbox One system software's interface uses a geometrical placement of squares and rectangular items that scrolls as a continuous vertical line, using the Metro design language that is also seen in Windows 8, Windows 10, and other Microsoft products.[5] By default, the dashboard is divided into "Home", "Community", "Mixer", "Game Pass" and "Store" sections;[6] the "Home" section contains a recent apps and games list. The "Community" section allows users to view their friends' in-game activities and captures, post status updates,[7] as well as view trending content.[8][9] The "Mixer" section shows an overview on streams on Microsoft's own Mixer service, while the "Store" section serves as a portal to the games, video, music, and app marketplaces.[6] In general, the top level menu of the Xbox One feels a lot less cluttered than the Xbox 360's dashboard. For example, the friends tab has been removed and replaced with a dedicated app that users can load up to see what their connections are doing. There are a couple of columns for settings options and an area for "pinned" favorites, a "main" screen showing current and recent apps and games that the user played or used, and a small "What's New" section highlighting some recently added content. In total, the interface is very clean and sparse.[10] Microsoft also introduced a new way to multitask called Snap, which allows Xbox One users to open multiple panes in a single window.

When Microsoft upgraded the Windows 8-based Core to a Windows 10-based one, they made a tour of the new user interface up on Xbox Wire, promising faster, easier navigation, improved community features and, the return of Xbox Avatars. The main feature on the home screen is a list of the most recently played games. Selecting any given title will give users more information about announcements, achievements, social activity and so forth. It is also more focused on the actual games they are playing, which is part and parcel of the company's new direction under Phil Spencer, the current head of Microsoft's Xbox division.[11]

1.3. Multimedia Features

While like other video game consoles the Xbox One is primarily designed for playing games, it is more than a game console. It is an entertainment hub for games, television, music, and videos. Mainly the console focuses on functionality and entertainment as a whole. At Gamescom 2014 Microsoft unveiled a new plan to remedy this and make earnest on the Xbox One's label as the "all-in-one entertainment" solution by way of expanding its media support. The Xbox One's media player is quite similar to the Xbox 360's playback suite in terms of form and function, however the newer console now supports more than 30 formats including the MKV container and GIF files. The Xbox One console also does some unique things. For example, its owners can control their television broadcasts using the device, as well as use it as a functioning DVR.[12] Apart from streaming music and videos via Play (Charms > Devices > Play), there is also a networked approach. There are two primary ways to do this. The first is to stream media from a computer or tablet, and the second is to play it directly off of a USB flash drive. The advantage of this method over the Play system is that users can do it all from wherever they sit via the Xbox One, instead of sending the video from a PC to their console.[13] Aside from multimedia files, Xbox One plays CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, and it also comes with DLNA and MKV support, which means that downloaded video files can be streamed via the PC or transported via external hard drive and USBs. Meanwhile, the interactive TV Guide allows users to turn on and control a television with their voice. Furthermore, the system comes with a comprehensive range of applications related to multimedia features. In the United States , video channels include for example the Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, Hulu Plus and Netflix. Microsoft had announced that the Xbox One was awarded for its multimedia capabilities at the 66th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards in early 2015, and the prize was given for the Xbox One's television-on-demand functions.[14]

1.4. Backward Compatibility

The Xbox One was not backward compatible with either the original Xbox or the Xbox 360 console at launch,[15] and Microsoft had admitted that attempts to use cloud streaming to allow Xbox 360 games to be played on Xbox One proved to be "problematic".[16] However, during its E3 press conference on June 15, 2015, Microsoft announced plans to introduce Xbox 360 backward compatibility using the software method on the Xbox One.[17] Supported Xbox 360 games are supposed to run within a software emulator provided by the updated system software, implementing both the hardware and software of the Xbox 360. Xbox One recording and broadcasting features are supported along with Xbox 360 multiplayer, achievements and cloud save access.[18]

Unlike Xbox 360's emulation of the original Xbox, games do not have to be specifically patched but need to be repackaged in the Xbox One format.[19][20][21] Users' digitally-purchased games will automatically appear in their library for download once available.[17] Games on physical media are not executed directly from disc; inserting the disc initiates a download of a repackaged version. As with Xbox One titles,[22] the disc must be inserted during play for validation purposes.[17][19]

At least 100 Xbox 360 games are officially supported and available for the feature's public launch alongside the November 2015 "New Xbox One Experience" system update,[8] and Xbox One preview program members received early access with a limited number of titles upon the announcement.[23][24] Microsoft expected the number of supported games to increase significantly over time, but not all Xbox 360 games will be supported—this explicitly includes any games that require Kinect or access to USB peripherals.[25]

Xbox division head Phil Spencer has stated that the idea of possibly adding support for games from the original Xbox was not "silly", but that the Xbox division is focusing on Xbox 360 compatibility first.[26] On June 11, 2017, Microsoft announced that there would be backwards compatibility for the original Xbox.[27]

On June 10, 2019, Microsoft announced that it had wound down the addition of new titles to the program, in order to focus on backward compatibility efforts for the Xbox Series X.[28][29]

1.5. Development

At the 2016 Build conference, it was announced that all Xbox One consoles could be updated to include a development kit for universal Windows applications on Xbox One,[30] with official support for the platform and Cortana coming in summer 2016.[31]

2. History of Updates

Along with introducing improvements and fixes for native console apps and software, the monthly updates to the Xbox One system software introduce major features that are voted on or requested by the community,[32] though some months have included more than one update. Starting in February 2014, beta releases of updates are tested[33] before going live to check for unwanted bugs and stability.[34]

On the day of the console's launch in 2013, a system update was released to remove the controversial always-online DRM announced at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013. This DRM would have required the Xbox One to connect to the Internet at least once every twenty-four hours, or else games would cease to function. After a wave of backlash from gamers and the press alike, Microsoft was forced to reverse its policies regarding this, but early users had to go online at least once to receive this patch.[35][36]

The February 2014 update introduced the ability to see how much hard disk space is available. It also introduced support for USB keyboards, enabling users to plug a keyboard into their console, thus eliminating the need to use the on-screen keyboard.[37] Over a year later, in July 2015, Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox team, vowed that mouse support would be added sometime in the future as part of cross-platform gameplay between Windows 10 devices and the Xbox One console.[38]

The March 2014 update added support for video output at 50 frames per second rather than 60, allowing smoother video on 50 Hz displays common in Europe. In the United States, refresh rates on screens are higher (60 Hz) than in Europe.[39]

In June 2014, support was added for external hard drives of 256 gigabytes or more, allowing two to be connected to the console at a time via USB 3.0.[40]

As part of the July 2014 update, consoles could better understand voice commands spoken in different accents and dialects of English and German.[41] A month later, purchases from the official Xbox website and the SmartGlass app were enabled, allowing for easier content purchasing.[42]

In the October 2014 update, a media player app was added with support for many formats and codecs, including the Matroska container, as well as DLNA streaming from other networked devices.[43]

In March 2015, a new screenshot feature was added to the console along with tile transparency, allowing owners to share game screenshots online or use one as a menu background.[44]

In April 2015, due to criticisms of the power consumption needed for the Instant-On feature, a system update prompted users to select between Instant-On and an energy saving mode. Instant-On had been enabled by default in the U.S., drawing criticism from the Natural Resources Defense Council.[45]

During the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015 in June, Microsoft discussed three major features that later came to Xbox One consoles in November 2015: Windows 10 streaming, Xbox 360 backward compatibility, and an interface redesign known as the New Xbox One Experience.[46] In advance of the public release of Windows 10, a July 2015 update let users stream games from their Xbox One to any device running Windows 10, a feature announced in January 2015.[47] The service streams only to one device at a time.[48]

In the February 2016 update, a slew of new features became available. For example, global leaderboards for each game and the ability to hide unused or expired beta games, and demos from a user's game collection. The February 2016 update allowed users to rearrange their customized 'pins' via the controller, whereas previously users had to use the Xbox One SmartGlass application to use this feature.[49]

The March 2016 update builds on the features that were introduced in the February 2016 update. New features that were included in the March 2016 update were the ability to purchase Xbox 360 compatible games on the Xbox One, party chat while broadcasting Twitch streams, and customizable DVR recording lengths, which means that owners can now record a clip that is up to 5 minutes long. Other improvements included the ability to track achievement progress from the Xbox One guide, video playback from the Xbox One activity feed, the ability to have 16 people in a party chat, and the ability to track Xbox 360 achievements on the Xbox One activity feed. Further improvements in the March 2016 update include the ability to launch web links and YouTube videos directly from the Game Hubs and the ability for a user to compare their avatars to their friends.[50] Additionally, the update also introduces the ability to factory reset the console without deleting installed games and applications.[51]

On June 6, 2016, the first preview update of the Windows 10 Anniversary update was made available to participants of the preview program. This included many new features and enhancements to the software. Build 14352 was one of the first builds to introduce Cortana. The main aim of this was to help users undertake certain tasks, such as setting up a party using voice commands. Unlike the older Kinect voice commands, Cortana gives users audio feedback to the commands, similar to the PC and Windows Mobile versions. The update also included a refreshed design of the Xbox store, further cementing the relationship between Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, as well as a redesigned 'My Games & Apps' interface, which includes a vertical design rather than the older horizontal design. The 'My Games & Apps' interface in build 14352 also gives the user more information when downloading games and apps such as the percentage completed, the current download size, total download size and the current download speed. The June 2016 update also includes a new 'Facebook Friend Finder', which allows users to find and add friends on Facebook on Xbox Live.[52] The final release to the public was published on July 30, 2016 to coincide with the release of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which was released a few days later on August 2, 2016. The final release introduced the newly redesigned universal store, as well as further integration of the Universal Windows Platform.

On March 29, 2017, an update was released to the public. Known as the Creators Update to coincide with the PC version, released a few weeks later on April 6, 2017. It was released to Xbox Insiders in late February 2017 for testing and evaluation. The Creators Update featured a number of updates, including a refreshed homepage design, a new guide design, new video and screenshot capture controls as well as a new game streaming service called Beam. Accessibility was also improved by a new feature called Microsoft Co-Pilot that allows users with physical impairments to 'hook' up a second controller to allow a friend to assist them with controls.[53] Tapping the Xbox Guide button no longer takes the user back to their home screen, but instead opens the guide. This represents a significant design paradigm shift compared to older releases.

On October 16, 2017, the Fall Update was released. Major changes include a UI overhaul using Microsoft's Fluent Design System, a modular Home menu, a faster dashboard, a content transfer feature, support for USB webcams, a new Guide menu, improvements to the game DVR, and several other miscellaneous functionality and interface tweaks.[54]

On April 24, 2018, the April Xbox Update was released. Changes include new video features Auto Low-Latency Mode, support for a variable refresh rate output to AMD Radeon FreeSync and FreeSync 2 compatible displays. In addition, Xbox One X and Xbox One S now support output at 2560 x 1440 (1440p) resolution for games and media, improvements to Mixer with Share Controller and the option to start Mixer broadcasts from anywhere on Xbox One, share captured screenshots and clips directly to Twitter, several audio improvements, Community tournaments are now available directly in Game Hubs for supported games and Club feeds have also gained new filters.[55]

On May 18, 2018, the May Xbox Update was released. Changes include support for a 120 Hz refresh rate, a powerful new enhancement to Pins called "Groups", with which users can create multiple collections of content made up of anything from within My games & apps, trim their recent game captures directly from the Guide, improved Family Settings, improvements to the Xbox Accessories app and several other changes to some of the button commands throughout the dashboard.[56]

Additionally, an update added captive portal support to the console, allowing users to connect to wireless networks requiring authentication, commonly used in colleges, hotels as well as wireless hotspots provided by internet service providers.[57]

Microsoft aims to release frequent updates to the Xbox One console, mainly containing new or improved features and faster installation and loading times for games and apps.[58] The largest of which was in November 2015, named the New Xbox Experience update.[59][60]

On June 13, 2020, a Tweet was published by Tom Warren from the Verge stating that Microsoft will use the same operating system on the Xbox Series X with a "few additional changes".[61]


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