How to Customize the Look and Feel of Your Xbox Series X or S

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Customizing the look and feel of your Xbox dashboard is about more than simply setting a color scheme or choosing a profile picture. You can pin games, speed up sign-ins, and change the UI layout, too. These tips apply to the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and even the Xbox One.

Set Your Theme, Background, and Color

There are three core aspects to customizing the way your Xbox looks: the theme, background image, and user color.

Changing the theme is a simple case of switching between a light and a dark Xbox dashboard. To change it, launch Settings. Then, under General, choose “Personalization,” followed by, “Theme & motion.” You can also pick “Scheduled,” which changes your theme dynamically to match the time of day.

Under the same Personalization menu, you will find the “My color & background” settings. The color you choose will change the accent color of the dashboard, including the background color of any notifications (like achievement pop-ups) you see, so pick something you don’t mind seeing during gameplay.

There are several dynamic backgrounds to choose from under the same menu, many of which reflect your choice of user color. You can also choose from solid colors, Microsoft-provided game art, achievements, a custom image of your choosing, or a screenshot you have taken.

Use a USB stick to set a custom image as your background. First, find an image and copy it to an NTFS-formatted USB stick. Insert the USB stick into your Xbox and launch the Media Player app. Find the image you’d like to use, then hit the Menu button on your controller and select “Set as background.”

Use Groups to Organize Games and Apps

You can organize your collection of games (including Game Pass titles) using groups. Groups let you quickly access up to 40 items, including apps. These are available via the Xbox guide (accessible by pressing the Xbox button on your controller) and can also be pinned to the main dashboard.

To create a group, press the Xbox button. On the main tab, choose “My games & apps.” There will be an option to “Create a new group” here, so go ahead and select it. From here, you can give your group a name, then add up to 40 items to it.

Your new group is accessible via the guide under “My games & apps.” You can make further changes to your groups via the full “My games and apps” menu. You might want to group games by genre, or create a group for games you’re currently still playing, or a group for your backlog. Get creative!

Pin Groups and Customize the Dashboard

While you’re on the Xbox dashboard, you can press the View button on your controller (the one that looks like two boxes overlapping) to customize the layout. You can remove items using the X button, move items with the A button, or choose “Add more to Home” to switch things up.

You can also pin groups of games here, which makes it easy to access all your favorites without having to rely on the “last played” menu at the top of the dashboard.

Other items you can pin include a widget for Game Pass that shows you what’s new, the Microsoft Store to see information about sales and new releases, profiles of your friends to see what they’re up to, or individual games to quickly get playing or see streams and related media.

Customize the Guide

The Guide is the quick menu that appears when you press the Xbox button on your controller. You can switch tabs with the LB and RB bumper buttons and even change the order in which these tabs appear.

To do so, press the Xbox button and navigate to the “Profile & system” tab (indicated by your user picture). Select “Customize the guide,” then use the A button to reorder it as you see fit. If you get confused and aren’t sure where things belong, hit the “Reset to Default” button to get back to where you were.

Link Your Controller with Your Profile

One of the best features of the Xbox dashboard is the ability to link a controller to a profile. This means that when you turn on a controller, that profile is automatically signed in and ready to go. It’s a great way to get into multiplayer games fast. It’s also fantastic for gamers who prefer a particular controller (like the Elite).

To link a controller to your profile, first, launch Xbox Settings. Then, under “Devices & connections,” choose “Accessories.” Select the controller that you want to assign, then hit the ellipsis “…” button. On the next menu, you’ll be able to choose the “Assign to” option and pick a profile as well as use the “This controller signs in” setting to set up an automatic sign-in.

This works best if you have different styles or colors of controllers, but any mods you can make to differentiate (with stickers, paint, whatever) will work.

Change Your Gamer Picture

Your gamer picture is the image that is displayed alongside your username when signing in. Games will often display your user picture alongside your name in multiplayer and single-player modes.

To change your picture, press the Xbox button and navigate to the “Profile & system” tab. Select your profile, followed by “My profile.” Next, hit the “Customize profile” button and select “Change gamerpic.”

You’ll be able to choose a picture from the selection shown, upload your own custom image, or take a picture of your avatar. If you haven’t got an avatar, you’ll need to set one up first.

You can also change your Xbox game picture via your mobile device. This is the more flexible option if you have a custom image that you’d like to use that’s already on your iPhone or Android smartphone. To do this, download the Xbox app for iPhone or Android and sign in.

Once the app is set up, tap on your gamer picture icon in the bottom-right corner of the app to reveal the Profile tab. Now, tap on your gamer picture and choose from the selection. The first icon in the list allows you to upload an image directly from your mobile device.

Set Your Xbox Avatar

An avatar is essentially a 3D model of yourself. Microsoft introduced the feature during the Xbox 360 era, but has since updated its avatars. If you haven’t had an Xbox for a while (or ever), you’ll probably want to set up a new avatar for yourself.

To do this, press the Xbox button and select “My games & apps,” followed by “See all.” Filter by “Apps,” then launch the Xbox Avatar Editor app. The app will walk you through the avatar creation process, allowing you to set up your avatar however you like.

Your avatar will be visible to friends and will show up in a few random places, including Gamerscore leaderboards and Microsoft Rewards. It’s infrequent enough that if you don’t set one, you won’t really be missing out (But who knows what Microsoft’s plans are for the future?).

Customize Notification Pop-ups

The Xbox tends to bombard you with notifications: achievements, game downloads, friends coming online, and Xbox rewards—it can all get a bit much at times. Fortunately, you can change which notifications you see from the Settings app.

Head to the “Preferences” section and choose “Notifications” in order to make changes. You can change system settings and app notification settings via dedicated menus as well as changing “Default notification position” and “Notification timing” settings (perfect if you need more time to read achievement descriptions before they disappear).

The default setting is that everything is turned on, including notifications telling you that your screenshot has been uploaded (which also appears on your mobile device if you have one linked).

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, disable “Notification banners on” to get rid of the pop-ups altogether.

Set Break Reminder Intervals

The Xbox offers customizable break reminders. Head back to Settings > Preferences and choose “Break reminder” to enable a notification that tells you when you’ve been playing for a while. You can choose between 30 minutes, 1 hour, 90 minutes, and 2 hours. The system only keeps count when you have a game running, so browsing the store or idling on the dashboard isn’t included.

Hide Your Email Address from the Dashboard

Hiding your email address is a niche but essential option for any streamer, and you can now hide the email address associated with your Xbox account from the dashboard. You can do this by launching the Settings app, then heading to Account > Sign-in, security & passkey.

Uncheck the “Show on Home” option where your email is listed in order to hide the information from your dashboard.

Do More with Your Xbox

Whether you have an Xbox One or the newer Xbox Series console, you can do much more with your console than you realize. This includes putting the console in developer mode to run custom code and playing PlayStation titles (among others) in the RetroArch emulator.

RELATED: How to Put Your Xbox Series X or S into Developer Mode