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Gifting a console or game this year? Here’s what you need to know before wrapping them up

Seriously, no one wants to spend Christmas day downloading games and updating consoles.

playstation nintendo xbox console wars
Image: KnowTechie

This year, the hottest gifts in gaming are the current generation of consoles. So, whether that’s the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, or the Nintendo Switch OLED, the gamer on your list is going to love you forever if that’s your gift to them this year.

Who wouldn’t love a shiny new console for the holidays? Especially when the supply situation has been abysmal since they launched.

Server issues or slow internet could take the holiday cheer out of your gift. Setting up that console beforehand will reduce the time it takes to get gaming.

We’ll show you what you need to know before wrapping that console up.

If you’re about to become the Holiday Hero to the person you’re gifting to, there are a few things you can do

The thing is, you need to remember that modern consoles are closer to PCs than ever before. So, you can’t just take them out of the box and start playing right away, as you could with the cartridge-based consoles you might have grown up with.

That means you should update them to the latest version of the console’s operating system. It doesn’t stop there either. There are updates to firmware and even the controller’s firmware. And if there are any games in the box – install and update those too.

You’ll want to start this process with plenty of time, especially if you only have the hours your little ones (or grown ones) are sleeping to accomplish this.

For those of you who don’t know, console updates can take a while and usually take overnight to complete, depending on your internet speed, and that’s without factoring in the time to download and patch any games. So again, you have your work cut out for you if you plan on doing this right.

Remember to update

downloading updates on consoles
Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

Nobody wants to spend Christmas Day staring at the “Update” screen. I mean nobody. Not you, not your lucky gift recipient, and certainly not your extended family. They would rather be watching reruns of Die Hard or Home Alone than stare at the PlayStation’s sluggish update screen.

This requires some preparation from you ahead of time, at a time when your internet won’t be slammed by streaming video and other tasks.

Here’s what to do if you are gifting a console – Setting it up

xbox series x and playstation 5 on purple background
Image: KnowTechie
  • Step 1: Open the console box carefully, and that includes carefully slitting the existing security sticker with a sharp knife.

    We’re going to leave the two halves on and put the replacement security sticker over them. The last thing we want to do is accidentally peel off some of the box.
  • Step 2: Okay, this one is kinda optional but it’s a nice touch. What’s the first thing your giftee is going to notice once they unwrap their new snazzy console?

    If you guessed “complain that it looks like somebody already opened it,” give yourself a gold star. Then head on over to Amazon and order some replacement security seal stickers to make that box look factory new again.
  • Step 3: Plug in the console as if you were the owner and follow all instructions to update to the latest operating system. We’d recommend using an Ethernet cable for this step, as it’ll get the fastest downloads.

    It’s also a wise idea to put the WiFi network details in if you know them. That’ll save time when your recipient unwraps things.
playstation nintendo xbox console wars
Image: KnowTechie

You might already own the console you’re gifting. That means you know how to update them, so do so now.

For everyone else, here are instructions from all three major manufacturers on how to update them:

You’ll have to create a temporary login, but you can delete these afterward. It takes an hour or more to update a console, so you just gifted time, as well as electronics.

You’ll also feel pretty good that you did it ahead of time, before the millions of other people who are updating their consoles for the first time on that day.

If you’re gifting a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S, you don’t even need to create a temporary log-in. Instead, the console will ask you to update the firmware before it asks you to sign in.

Also, make sure to charge the controllers. The PlayStation’s DualShock 4 uses a micro-USB to charge. The DualSense controllers for PlayStation 5 use USB-C.

Xbox One or Xbox Series controllers need AA batteries unless you buy the Charge n Play accessory, and the Switch controllers charge wirelessly when they’re attached to the main console.

Now the console and accessories are updated, what about games?

five games to check out in july 2020
Image: KnowTechie

Well, that depends. If the console came with digital downloads, you’ll need the recipient’s account details to download them, as you wouldn’t want to attach the games to another account.

You might not feel comfortable asking, or if this is their first console from that manufacturer, it’s better to leave this unclaimed so they can install them once they decide on a username.

We recommend you buy any games as disc versions, so they can return them if it’s not a game they’ll play. Read the vendor’s return policy fully. Here are the policies for Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.

We like giving gift cards for the console instead of digital download keys. That way, they can pick the titles they want to play. Just make sure you give more than the cost of one game for the latest consoles. That’s $70, to be on the safe side.

If you bought a bundle, with Blu-ray-based games, you could go and install those ahead of time so they can play something while the digital ones download.

Stick them in the drive, let it transfer data onto the hard drive, and start any updates for the game over the internet. That could take hours, so leave the console plugged in and connected to the internet.

Installing games on the new console

ps5 game install
Image: YouTube

Nintendo Switch

Physical games for the Nintendo Switch come as small cartridges. They should work right out of the box, and you can even play them while any updates are downloaded. You can safely leave them in the shrink-wrapped box, so your recipient gets all the joy of tearing it open.

If you really do want to go the extra mile, carefully remove that shrink wrap. If you lift the two tabs on one short side, you can slide the shrink wrap off, then do the reverse once you’re done and reseal it with a dab of glue.

Connect the Switch to the internet, then place the cartridge into the console. Follow the instructions that will pop up for updating and installing, then pop the cartridge out and put it back in the box once it’s finished updating.


Most games for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 can be played without an update. Note we said most. As a responsible gift giver, it’s worth preinstalling and checking for updates. Important bug fixes or added content could be part of those updates.

You can update games without having to sign into a PSN account. Carefully remove the shrink wrap as before, so you can reuse it to seal the box again when you’re done. Insert the disc into the drive and follow the prompts on the screen.

Once the installation is done, run the game once. That lets it connect to the internet to download any updates. Eject the disc, put it carefully back in the box, and put the shrink wrap back on.


Unlike PS games, Xbox One and Xbox Series X games do need to be installed to the internal hard drive to play. Most of the time they need an update before they load.

To do so, you must sign in with an Xbox account. Create one just for this process, then sign in. Open the shrink wrap carefully, as before, and slide the disc into the slot. Install it as prompted, then get ready to update everything.

Press the Xbox Guide button then select My Games and Apps > See all. On the next screen, scroll down to Manage > Updates and update every game you see in the list. Wait for them to finish updating, then you can remove the temporary account you created earlier.

That will keep all the games and content on the Xbox but make it so your recipient can sign into their own Xbox account when they unwrap their present.

Wrapping it all up

So, there you have it, that’s all the things you should be doing if you plan to gift a console or game this holiday season. It’s important to remember; these modern consoles are closer to PCs than ever before. You can’t just take them out of the box and immediately start playing.

Doing all this legwork will make sure whoever you’re gifting a console lets them play right on day one. You’ll be a hero, watch.

What do you think? Gifting a console this year? Plan on taking this advice? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek. Hardware guy here at KnowTechie, if it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't) I probably have one around here somewhere. My hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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