Here's why the Xbox One's November update is a big deal

The new Xbox One update introduces new features and backward compatibility, and promises better performance.

Nate Ralph Associate Editor
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Nate Ralph
3 min read

Microsoft is pushing a major update to the Xbox One Thursday -- if you own the console, you're going to want to be paying attention to this one.

This fall update brings an entirely new look to the console's interface, and promises a faster, streamlined social experience so you and your friends can spend less time rooting around menus, and more time racing laps, or chucking plasma grenades at each other.

More importantly, the new Xbox Experience unlocks new features like the ability to play some Xbox 360 games, and promises to have a faster overall experience. The update will start rolling out worldwide at 12:01 a.m PT or 3:01 a.m. ET on November 12 (find out when that is in your timezone here). Support for backwards compatibility (more on that in a bit) won't be available for about 12 hours, around noon PT or 3 p.m ET.

If you've got your console set to automatically download updates, you won't need to do anything. If not, you'll need to head to your console's settings to check if the update is available for you.


The new Xbox experience is powered by Windows 10

Windows 10 was built to be a single operating system that spanned all of the device ecosystems that Microsoft dabbles in, and this update brings the Xbox One into the fold. It's going to operate behind the scenes -- you aren't going to be running Photoshop, or wrangling Excel spreadsheets on your console. But it's an important part of bringing all of Microsoft's devices under one roof -- Microsoft also claims that thanks to some speed integrations from Windows 10 some "popular gaming features" could load up to 50 percent faster.

There's an entirely new design, too

The entire Xbox One interface has been tweaked, too. When you fire up your Xbox, your home screen will show you a list of the games you're playing, along with a list of your friends that're playing too, and announcements from the game, or the game's developers. You'll also find easy links to share clips and the like with your friends. This should be a lot faster to navigate than the Xbox One's current, tile-based setup, and should do a better job of showing you the stuff you want to see right away.


Dust off your old Xbox 360 library, thanks to backward compatibility

Support for Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One is going to a far more noticeable difference. There will be 104 Xbox 360 games available when the update launches in November, but the company has pledged to bring hundreds more in the coming months. You'll be able to use all of the new Xbox One features with these older games -- including things like taking screenshots and streaming from your console.

You don't have to pay anything to play your old games, and backward compatibility works with Xbox 360 discs and games you've downloaded. You can also play multiplayer games with friends on Xbox 360s, which will be great for those of us with friends who haven't upgraded to the latest console generation.

Head on over to our list of backwards-compatible Xbox 360 games to see which of your favorites have made the cut.

A new Community section will bring players together

If your friends list is looking a little anemic, the new community section could be a good fit for you. You'll be able to see what's popular among the gamers on Xbox Live, scoping out activity feeds based on games you choose to follow. You can already see what your friends are up to -- with this Community section, you'll be able to see what's trending among players on Xbox Live, and find new players who might share your interests. This sort of shared community is usually handled by social networks or websites like Reddit, so it'll be interesting to see how well a built-in solution fares.