Slow downloads are frustrating for everyone. With games and updates ever growing in size, download times are getting longer. There are a number of factors that can cause slow downloads. It is important to remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you want to increase your download speeds, you may need to address multiple issues. The first step is to test your download speed.
Download speeds on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are not capped by a hard cap. They do, however, vary depending on a number of factors, and the speeds you get could be as low as 1 Mbps or as high as, theoretically, 945 Mbps. Of course, most people will fall somewhere in the middle of these two numbers. If your speeds are slower than expected, there are several factors that may be limiting your speed.
Xbox Series X Download Speed Cap
You’re Internet Service is Slow
If your internet service provided by your internet service provider (ISP) is slow, your downloads will be slow no matter what else you do. This is a 100% guarantee. If you are using DSL, you may want to consider what other options are available in your service region. DSL is an older technology that is simply unable to keep up effectively with modern internet demands, including streaming, gaming, and downloading large files.
If you currently are using either cable or fiber-based internet, it may simply be a matter of calling your ISP to get your speed increased. Generally, this will entail a small price increase, but if you ask about current promotions, you may be able to increase your bandwidth at no cost. A good target is to aim for getting at least 200 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload. Not everyone will have access to these speeds, but if you are using a cable or fiber-based internet service, these speeds are commonplace.
If you have multiple people using the internet at the same time and really heavy usage, it may be worth it to go with an even higher service tier. Often times the price difference between a 200 Mbps plan or a 500 Mbps plan is only about $10 – $15 per month.
If you live in a area with no cable or fiber options, you may want to consider checking out Starlink. Starlink is currently offering speeds of over 100 Mbps. This is 10 times faster than many DSL packages and a huge upgrade. If you already have cable or fiber service, I would not recommend changing to Starlink at this time. Starlink is not going to match the performance and stability of cable or fiber.
You’re Using Wi-Fi
The Wi-Fi technology used on the Xbox Series X and Series S is older generation Wi-Fi 5 technology. The Xbox Series X does not have Wi-Fi 6. This limits the download speeds to about 300 Mbps. This is also a best-case scenario with the router placed very close and with no obstructions whatsoever. Most people using Wi-Fi will be lucky to get 200 Mbps of bandwidth. While these speeds are plenty fast for most people, if you want faster speeds, you will need to use a wired ethernet connection.
If you are using Wi-Fi, make sure you are using the 5Ghz frequency band. If you are using the 2.4 GHz band, your speeds will be severely limited. This is the single best thing you can do to improve your Wi-Fi connection. In many cases, it will double or even triple your download speeds.
In my most recent round of testing WiFi 6 performance, I found that 2.4 GHz performance is generally lacking, even more so than before. In 2023 and beyond, the assumption is that devices that need high performance will always be used on 5 GHz. Routers still support 2.4 GHz, but at this point, the 2.4 GHz band is mostly for legacy devices, low-cost IoT devices, and devices that need to connect at a longer range.
Virtaully all routers made in the last 5 years support the 5 GHz band. It is generally a matter of simply changing a few settings. If your router does not support the 5 GHz band, it is likely quite old and due for an upgrade anyways.
You’re Using Ethernet With an Older Router or Switch
If you are connecting via ethernet using an older router or switch your speed may be limited to 100 Mbps. Many older routers and switches used 10/100 ethernet ports. If you are connected to one of these devices, your effective speed will be limited to about 94 Mbps.
Upgrading your router or switch to a model with gigabit ports will remove this limitation and allow for faster speeds, assuming that this is the limiting factor. If your internet plan is only good for 10 Mbps upgrading your router will not increase your speeds without also increasing your internet plan.
A good router can be purchased for about $100 and will last you for a number of years. In my humble opinion, if you are using a router that is 5+ years old, it is 100% worthwhile to upgrade.
QoS Settings On Your Router Are Limiting Your Speed
Depending on the make and model of your router, it is completely possible that your router settings are capping your speeds. Generally, this is referred to as quality of service (QoS) or traffic shaping. Not all home routers have this functionality, but many do.
Your download speeds could be capped by MAC Address, physical port number, DSCP tag, or based on other factors. QoS is good for performance but could be to blame if you accidentally set your Xbox Series X to receive limited bandwidth. It can also have an impact if other people are streaming and your router decides to prioritize streaming video over all other traffic automatically.
In my personal experience working with routers as a network administrator, I find that QoS is rarely an issue unless you deliberately made an attempt to use it to throttle a specific device on your network. I have never seen it where automatic QoS has a significant impact on performance.
The Xbox Live Servers are Overcrowded
If non of the above applies to you, and you are getting fast speeds on all of your other devices, then the problem may be beyond your control. Often times download speeds are limited by Microsoft because of excess traffic on their servers. This is often an issue that peaks with the release of a new AAA game title or after the holiday season.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this type of slowdown. You are most likely to notice this if your internet speeds are faster than about 200 – 300 Mbps. Remember that Microsoft has to provide downloads to millions of users and only has a certain amount of bandwidth capacity.
The speed that Xbox Live downloads games and updates is actually much faster than many other downloads. The issue is the ever-increasing size of the downloads. Unfortunately, the level of detail that is present in today’s games dictates that downloads can only be made so small.
Based on my experience, generally, Xbox Live servers are not overcrowded. However, during the days following Christmas and during common school vacation weeks, the services do slow down. I have experienced this for myself several times.