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Xbox consoles are about to get a little bit greener

New ‘carbon aware’ mode begins testing, but the real power saving is elsewhere

Microsoft Xbox logo on a glitchy green background Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Microsoft has announced a new “carbon aware” power mode is rolling out to the Xbox Insider testing program, and will soon be available to all Xbox owners.

The mode optimizes updates and downloads to run at times when the local power grid is least reliant on fossil fuels, and the console can use the most renewable energy to perform these tasks. Windows 11 updates became carbon aware last year.

As long as the console is connected to the internet and can access the regional carbon intensity data it needs, it will be carbon aware by default. But the optimizations will only work if it’s in Shutdown mode, rather than Sleep.

It’s a worthwhile new optimization, but by far the biggest impact is to be had in Xbox owners choosing to use Shutdown rather than Sleep in the first place, as Shutdown is up to 20 times more power efficient. So it’s probably even more significant that, along with the carbon aware update, all Xbox Series X and S consoles will be switched to using Shutdown by default when turned off. Users will then need to manually switch back to Sleep if they prefer it. Shutdown means a longer time to boot than Sleep, and the remote wake feature isn’t available, but otherwise the console operates the same and can still receive overnight updates.

Xbox One consoles will also be getting new power modes, including the same energy-saving Shutdown mode, with downloads and updates enabled, that Series X uses.

Microsoft points out that every two consoles switching to Shutdown from Sleep will save the equivalent amount of carbon removed by 1 tree planted and grown for a decade. But if you do want to use Sleep, you’ll be able to use a new Active Hours setting that will enable the remote wake and fast booting of Sleep during certain hours, and then fully shut down at the end of the day.

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