Many gamers are disappointed by how long games take to download on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. In many cases, games take hours to download, even though other online activities are fast. What causes Xbox Series X downloads to be so slow, even on a fast connection? As a frustrated gamer myself, I wanted to find out one and for all.
I decided to test a bunch of commonly cited techniques hands-on to see what really makes a difference and what is simply not important. Please note that your download speeds will never be faster than what your ISP provides you with. In my case, my ISP limits my download speeds to 950 Mbps. This is faster than what many people get, but not uncommon in 2023 and beyond.
Table of Contents
Factors That Improve Download Speeds on Xbox Series X
- Closing out of any games that may be open or open in the background.
- Switch from the 2.4 GHz WiFi band to the 5 GHz WiFi band.
- Moving my Xbox Series X closer to my router.
- Switching from using WiFi to using a wired ethernet connection.
- Replacing a damaged ethernet cable.
- Pausing the Netflix stream that was running on my other TV.
My starting download speeds were 27 Mbps. At this speed, a 50 GB download would take over 4 hours.
|Factor Tested||Improvement in Mbps||Improvement as a Percentage|
|Closing out of any games||8||30%|
|Switch from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz WiFi||38||141%|
|Moving closer to the router||75||378%|
|Switching from WiFi to ethernet||620||2,296%|
|Replacing damaged ethernet cable||553||2,048%|
|Pausing Netflix stream on other TV||4||15%|
Closing out of Games
Closing out of games provided about a 30% improvement in download speeds on Xbox Series X when connected to WiFi. When connected via ethernet, the difference was drastic. I went from 27 Mbps with a game open to almost 650 Mbps after closing the game.
It appears that Microsoft has designed the Xbox Series X | S consoles to throttle downloads when in a game. This makes perfect sense. If you are playing a game, you do not want your downloads using all of your bandwidth, leading to lag and connection instability.
However, what you may not realize is that your download speed is getting limited even if you are not actively playing and you are sitting at the menu screen for your game. To get full download speeds, you need to exit out of any open games or apps.
Switching WiFi Bands
The Xbox Series X console supports up to WiFi 5. WiFi 5 is designed to operate exclusively in the 5GHz band. Therefore, when you are using the 2.4 GHz band on your Xbox Series X, you are really connecting using WiFi 4 technology.
This greatly reduces your download speeds and also can increase your latency. In many areas, the 2.4 GHz radio spectrum is extremely overcrowded with signals and interference. Cordless phones, baby monitors, microwave ovens, and of course, other WiFi networks are all common interference sources in the 2.4 GHz band.
When I switched my Xbox Series X over from the 2.4 GHz band to the 5 GHz band, I saw my download speeds jump up by over 141% on the speed test. This is using the same router in the same spot in my house. The only change I made was using the settings option on my Xbox Series X console to force it to use the 5 GHz WiFi band.
This had a significant impact on network speed and made slow download speeds less of an issue.
Moving my Xbox Console Closer to my Router
The 5 GHz WiFi band has a shorter effective range than the 2.4 GHz band. I was connecting through multiple walls and was about 50 feet from my router. When I relocated my Xbox Series X to be in the room next to my router, my download speeds went through the roof.
I saw a 387% improvement in speeds just by getting closer to my router and reducing the number of walls in the way. This is a vast improvement which I did not fully anticipate.
Anything you can do to get either closer to your router or reduce the number of obstacles between your Xbox and your Wi-Fi router will make a huge difference. If you have a lot of obstructions, that could very well be your issue, and moving either your router or your Xbox console could be the solution to getting better performance.
Switching From WiFi to Ethernet
The single most impactful thing that I was able to do to increase my download speeds was to connect my Xbox Series X with an ethernet cable. This increased my download speeds by 2,296%. This means that the same download that would previously have taken over 4 hours now takes less than 11 minutes.
You should consider connecting your Xbox Series X to your network via ethernet if at all possible. If running a cable is impossible, consider options such as MoCA and powerline networking.
Using an ethernet cable will also greatly improve your connection stability and reliability. After connection your cable with your connection from wireless to wired in the network settings menu.
Replacing My Damaged Ethernet Cable
So you are using ethernet and still not getting max speeds? As it turns out, a damaged ethernet cable, in many cases, can still function at a reduced speed. You might not even realize your cable is limiting your download speeds.
Ethernet connections can run at several different speeds. The most common are 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps). The 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps speeds only need 4 of the 8 wires inside the cable to operate. You could have a damaged cable and potentially be able to connect and run at 100 Mbps.
Replacing your ethernet with a cable that is undamaged will allow your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S to connect to your network at 1 Gbps.
When I tried replacing a damaged cable with a new cable, I saw my speed instantly jump up over 2000%.
My speeds went from 94 Mbps to 645 Mbps simply by replacing my ethernet cable with a cable that was not damaged. Ethernet cables are inexpensive, and you do not need fancy Cat7 or Cat8 cables. Any Cat5e or Cat6 cables that are in good condition will get you max speeds on your console. Check out our recommendations on the best ethernet cables for Xbox Series X.
Turning Off Netflix Stream in the Other Room
I saw a small but measurable improvement in download speeds by turning off the Netflix stream that was running in the other room. The improvement was only 4 Mbps because that is all the stream used. However, depending on the speed of your internet connection, that extra 4 Mbps could make a difference to you.
If you are trying to download something as quickly as possible and you have a slow internet connection. Disconnect your phone from the WiFi and turn off any other devices that are connected to it and consuming bandwidth. This will allow you to use all of your limited bandwidth to complete your download.
If your internet speed coming from your ISP is 50 Mbps or greater, this solution is unlikely to fix your issue. For people with internet connections of 10 Mbps or less, this is especially helpful. For people getting 5 Mbps or less, this is essential.
Factors Which Had no Impact on Xbox Series X Download Speeds
- Changing MTU settings on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S
- Choice in DNS servers on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S
- Restarting my router
Despite what many gamers would have you believe. Changing MTU settings from their default value of 1500 either had no impact or had a negative impact on my download speeds.
I did not find changing MTU settings to be helpful in getting faster downloads. MTU settings are one of those things that, most of the time, are just correct by default.
DNS Server Change
There are many reasons you may wish to use a different DNS server on your Xbox Series X than what your ISP defaults to. Some of these can include faster name resolution, increased privacy, and increased reliability.
One thing that changing DNS servers proved not to do is improve download speeds. When I tried changing my DNS servers, I saw no change in my download speeds whatsoever.
This is unsurprising to anyone who knows what DNS is and what it does. As a systems administrator that works with DNS regularly, I was not expecting this to make any difference.
However, I choose to test it, given how many tutorials list it as a way of speeding up downloads on Xbox Live. Changing DNS servers is not the solution to slow download speeds on Xbox consoles.
Restarting your router occasionally is not a bad idea. It can fix a number of issues, just like restarting any electronic device can. However, in my testing, I did not see any increases in download speeds as a result of restarting my router.
Restarting your router if it is giving you issues is a good idea. Restarting to get faster Xbox Live downloads doesn’t appear to work at all.
Conclusion: Xbox Slow and Internet Fast How to Fix
There are a number of techniques that can increase your download speeds on Xbox Series X and Xbox series S. Some of them can 10x your download speeds, and others can provide more modest gains.
Ultimately the speed of your internet connection will be the most important factor. However, there are ways of improving your connection and tweaking out a bit more download speed.
Even things as simple as closing out of games that were not in use proved to make a noticeable difference. Other things, including changing DNS servers and other network settings, proved to make no difference at all.