What Is Xbox Live (Previously Xbox Silver)?

Xbox Live Silver morphed into free Xbox Live

Xbox Live in boxes at store; guys on line waiting to pay
Bryan Bedder

The free Xbox Live account, once known as Xbox Silver, is an alternative to the Xbox Live Gold membership. Microsoft dropped the Xbox Live Silver designation and now offers free Xbox Live and paid Xbox Gold memberships.

The free Xbox Live service delivers the hottest games, TV shows, HD movies, and live events, and includes gaming communities, apps, special offers, and groups organized around similar interest and gaming styles — features that were once available only to gamers with paid Xbox Live Gold memberships.

Your Xbox Live account is the same as your Microsoft account, so you only need to remember one login. If you already have a Microsoft account, you're ready to go. If not, go to the Microsoft Sign in screen and create one.

Free Xbox Live Features

After you log in to your Xbox console and connect with Xbox Live, you create a profile and a gamertag. At that point, you can take advantage of the many features that come with your free Xbox Live membership:

  • Enjoy music, sports, and premiere entertainment apps.
  • Use Microsoft Edge and Skype on your TV.
  • Earn achievements and improve your gamerscore.
  • Preview available games.
  • Access betas before they hit the street.
  • Make a friends list.
  • Download games and other add-ons at Xbox Marketplace.
  • Send and receive text and voice messages with other Xbox Live users.
  • Join a gaming community of gamers with similar gaming objectives.

The main advantages of the paid Gold level of service are the online multiplayer option and multiplayer community, members-only sales, and free games every month, features that are not available to free Xbox Live members.

Both memberships include access to downloadable content from the Xbox Marketplace and a friends list so that you can chat and share your gamer profile and achievements. 

Xbox Live and Video Apps

In the past, free Xbox Live users couldn't use apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, WWE Network, Twitch, VUDU, or much of anything else. That has changed, and now you can use all of these video apps and many more with an Xbox Live free account without needing an Xbox Live Gold subscription. You still need to pay any fees those services charge, such as a Netflix subscription, for example. 

Your Xbox Live profile and subscription works on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It is the same account on both platforms. If you pay for Xbox Live Gold, it applies to both systems. 

Why You Should Consider Going Gold

Playing online with one of your friends or with several of them takes your gaming experience to the next level. Multiplayer gaming — both competitive and cooperative — leads to exciting matches that require quick thinking. Xbox Live's free version has a lot to offer, particularly now that Gold membership isn't required for apps, but multiplayer gaming is a Gold member exclusive that serious gamers are going to want. In addition, sales and discounts are often available only for Gold members, and occasionally demos and game previews are for Gold subscribers as well. Xbox Live Parties and party chat are available only to Gold members

The Deals With Gold section of the website includes exclusive discounts for Gold members of up to 75 percent off for select Xbox 360 and Xbox One games, add-ons, and other items.

Every month, the Games With Gold program offers Xbox Live Gold members free Xbox 360 and Xbox One games. Most months at least two free Xbox 360 and two Xbox One games are available. In the past, the selection included "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," "Hitman: Blood Money," "Rayman Legends," "Halo 3," "Gears of War 3," and many more. The Games With Gold feature practically pays for the entire Xbox Live Gold subscription by offering hundreds of dollars in free games during the year to Xbox Gold members, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 games for the Xbox One.