Tips for New Xbox 360 Owners

Here's what you need to know

If you just bought a new Xbox 360 system for the first time, congrats. You'll have a lot of fun with it. But there are a few tips and tricks that you should know that could make things even better now, and potentially save you some trouble later.

Don't Put Your Credit Card Info on Your System

It's tempting to put your credit card on your account so you can buy an Xbox Live Gold subscription or buy digital video games right on your Xbox 360, but we don't recommend it. Buying Xbox Live Gold with a credit card linked to your profile on your system automatically sets you up for auto-renewal, and it's incredibly hard to turn off.

Secondly, it's very, very difficult to actually remove your credit card info from your account once it's on there. There's an option to remove your info on, but you can't actually do it unless you put another payment option in its place, which defeats the purpose of wanting to remove it in the first place.

Our advice is to just not put your credit card on your system at all. You can buy an Xbox Live Gold subscription at retailers.

It's not a terrible idea to use your credit card on your Xbox 360, but make sure you understand the risks associated with it first before you do.

System Location Is Important

The Xbox 360, up until the Slim model that came out in June 2010, earned a reputation for breaking down a lot. It got too hot, it overheated, the solder holding the parts down inside melted and they came loose … it's a mess.

Microsoft has a 3-year warranty on older systems and a 1-year warranty on Slim systems where they will replace them for free if they break down. If you set your system up in the correct location, however, you can extend the life of your system considerably and not have to worry about breakdowns.​​​

Find an Optimal, Well-Ventilated Location

First off, set your system up in a location where it gets airflow all the way around it. Don't cram it into a cabinet or TV stand or something. Keep it out in the open. And, please, don't bother buying one of the third-party fans that you can attach to the system. They don't really help that much.

Also, make sure the Xbox 360 power brick (you know, the big heavy brick on the power cord) is also well ventilated. I have mine sitting on a small box on the floor, just to keep it ventilated as well as to keep dirt or carpet fibers from clogging it up.

Keep Your System Clean

Our next bit of advice is to keep your system clean. Don't let it get dirty, and especially don't let the vents get clogged with dust. And third, don't stack other stuff on top of your system. Don't put games or DVD cases on top of it. Don't put other electronics on it. Keep it ventilated.

If you position your system in a good place and keep it clean, it absolutely will last longer.

Set up Your System Horizontally, Not Vertically

With the Xbox 360, you do have the option of setting it up either horizontally or standing it up vertically. Vertical is a bad choice, in our opinion. It isn't exactly stable, unless you buy a third-party stand to give it a wider base, and even if you do have a base for it, it's still prone to any shaking or vibrations, which can cause your game disc to get scratched.

Imagine playing a Kinect game where you're jumping all over the place. Your system will be wobbling back and forth and your game will almost certainly get scratched. Or worse, your system might fall completely over onto the floor. Obviously a bad thing. Keep it horizontal, and you shouldn't have any problems.

Be Careful Choosing Your Xbox Network Gamertag

When you first turn your Xbox 360 on, you have to go through a setup process that includes naming a profile for yourself. This profile is how the rest of the gaming world knows you, so do us all a favor and choose something that's actually easy to read. Putting a bunch of "l337" speak in your name, or trying to be too clever with abbreviations to make some clever phrase, isn't nearly as cool as you think it might be.

Choose something simple that people can actually read in the heat of battle so they can communicate with you. You can change your gamertag later, but it costs $10 to do so, so get it right the first time.

If You Don't Want to Pay for Gold, at Least Use a Free Xbox Network Account

Even if for some reason you don't want to pay for Xbox Live Gold or you don't think you want to play online with other people, you should still hook your Xbox 360 up to your network so you can at least use a free account.

The Free subscription lets you play free-to-play game online, chat with friends, and use streaming apps like Netflix. The premium Gold subscription get all of that, plus access to online multiplayer in games, discounts in the store, and more.

The Xbox network is more than playing with other people, though, and if you aren't connected you can't download Xbox Live Arcade games, download movies and TV shows, check on your friends (even if you can't play with them, it's still fun to be able to track what they're playing and you can still compare leaderboard scores), and more.

Even if you don't want to play with other people, it's absolutely still worth it to connect to the Xbox network, even with a Free account.

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