Some consoles will forever have a place in our hearts. For me, there is one console that I will always remember particularly fondly: the Xbox 360. I got it just after it released, as a birthday present in early 2006, and I remember booting up an Official Xbox Magazine demo disk and just marveling at the graphics. They were quite unlike any others that I'd ever seen before. Even in standard def, and even though the only full game I had was Perfect Dark Zero, which, looking back, isn't exactly stunning, to me it was a revolution. This was the system that I'd been waiting for.
From Halo 3 to Crackdown, GTA V to Gears, there were a huge amount of wonderful games that I tore through in the years I owned it. I don't have one anymore, but I'm pretty sure I rinsed everything I could from it. However, when I started researching this story, despite being a veteran of the 360, red rings and all, there were a ton of hidden features that I discovered. I never knew that the 360 could browse the internet out of the box, long before Internet Explorer was released. I never knew that it could run custom interfaces, or be navigated from a phone, or that it would accept USB keyboards. Read on, and tell us what you think. Did you know any of these already? Have we missed any awesome secrets that you discovered? Let us know, as always, in the comments!
25 Play Games Online Without Xbox Live
I'm not entirely sure what Microsoft would think of this one, but back in the day, if you wanted to tear up Halo's online modes without spending a dime, you could. If you downloaded a little app called XLink Kai and booted it up on a PC on your network, it would trick your 360 into thinking it was playing on a LAN. This allowed you to play any game online with no cost to yourself. However, it would only really work with servers local to you, as it affected your ping somewhat.
24 Connect To The Internet Wirelessly Without An Official Adaptor
Any company that tries to make you spend unneccessary money on their "special" adaptors or cables automatically earns my ire (Monster Cable, I'm looking at you). Such was the case with the 360's wireless adaptor. Luckily, however, you could save yourself some money if you had a spare laptop. It required a bit of technical knowledge, but you could set up the laptop as a bridge, then simply run an ethernet cable from your laptop to your 360, and you were away.
23 Play Music From An iPod
Despite Microsoft and Apple being huge rivals, the Xbox 360 could be hooked up to an iPod. MS didn't make it easy to find this option, but if you went on the Marketplace, there was a small download simply called "optional iPod support." If you grabbed this, you could then plug your iPod into one of the 360's USB ports and stream all of your tunes off the primo MP3 player of the mid-late 2000s. It's strange that MS didn't simply include this option out of the box.
22 Browse The Web (Before Internet Explorer Came Out)
Yes, really. I think of all the entries on this list, this was the most surprising to me. While the Wii had a web browser app, the 360 didn't for years and years. If you were smart and tech-savvy however, you could fairly easily set one up. If you got a Media Center extension called MCE Browser, and installed it on your PC, then set up your 360 as a Media Center, you could surf the web to your heart’s content. It wasn't slick and stream-lined, but it worked.
21 Navigate The System From Your Phone
This was a really nifty little feature back when it came out, but I don't think that many people took advantage of it. If you grabbed the Smartglass app for your phone, you could essentially use it as a remote for the 360. You could view additional content for any games you were playing too, and use it to skip scenes in any movies or TV you were watching. A really nifty little thing that I, personally, never used, but kinda wish I had.
20 Install Games To A Thumb Drive
The 360 didn't make installing games mandatory (which is good, since the first gen models only had a 20GB hard drive), but it was always an option if you wanted to quieten the disc drive down. While the hard drive was always an option, there were myriad other storage options available. You could install your games to an external hard drive if you wanted, but for extra portability, why not a thumb drive? Simply plug one in, and go to install the game, and the thumb drive will appear as an installation location.
19 You Could Order Pizza With Your Kinect
God, it's like living in Back To The Future II. If you were fortunate (or unfortunate, as the case may be) enough to have a Kinect, you could use wild gesticulations to order from Pizza Hut, like a dog begging for scraps. You could use voice commands or hand motions to build your dream pizza before placing the order. Knowing how Kinect was though, if you didn't have a big enough room you'd probably end up some weird abomination of a pizza with 30 helpings of pork on top.
18 There Were Hidden Avatar Hair Colors
Remember when avatars were introduced, and the internet went wild over them? Some loved them, some hated them, but they were here to stay. However, the range of customizations seemed a little limited, didn't they? Luckily, if you wanted something a bit different, you could unlock it. It honestly couldn't be easier to unlock the 9 additional colors. You just had to go into the "my features" menu, and wait for 60 seconds. The hairstyles box would rotate, and you could get your hair as pink as you like.
17 You Could Play Your Own Music In Original Xbox Games
The backwards compatability on Xbox 360 was pretty handsome: a good selection of original Xbox games could be loaded up and played. However, one feature was lacking: the ability to play your own music during gameplay. See, in 360 games, you could pull up the interface and start your own custom soundtrack whenever you liked, but for one reason or another, this wasn't possible in original Xbox games. However, there was a loophole. If you started up a playlist before starting the game, it would continue during gameplay.
16 Set Up A Japanese Xbox Live Profile For Exclusive Games
If you wanted to get some exclusive Xbox Live games (like, for example, Gal*Gun (I won't judge, don't worry)), or just wanted to get some Japanese achivements for novelty value, it couldn't be easier. To set up a Japanese profile, all you needed to do was create a new Microsoft account and select Japan as your country. Provide your information, and you'll have an account in moments. If you're using Google Chrome, you can translate the web pages on the fly, which will make the whole process easier, as it will be in Japanese.
15 Hook Up Your PSP For Custom Backgrounds
Any pictures stored on your PSP could be used as a custom background on your Xbox 360. Pretty cool, huh? Particularly given that the PSP is a Sony device. If you hooked up your PSP, then selected the "USB Connection" option on it, you could browse all of the pictures on the 360. If you found one that you thought would look particularly good as a background, you just had to hit X and it would be set as the wallpaper.
14 You Could Shut Down The System From The Controller
"Man, I'd love to shut down the console, but it's way over there, and I can't be bothered." Ever thought this? Well, long before this generation of systems, the 360 already had a solution for that. That guide button on the controller? It's not only for bringing up the blades. If you held it down for three seconds, a menu would appear that gave you the options to turn off the controller or the console. Easy as pie and a boon for the lazy among us!
13 It Could Output To Two Screens At Once
If you wanted to set up another screen for LAN parties or while playing local multiplayer games, your 360 could do that! If you had the component/composite dual cables, all you needed to do was flick the switch to "standard definition," then hook up the yellow composite cables and the RGB component cables to two different TVs. The image it produced would be limited to standard def, but it made local multiplayer seshes a lot easier when you weren't all crowded round one TV.
12 Upload Save Games To The Cloud
When the time comes to move away from the 360, and start again on the Xbox One, you don't really want to lose all your saves. Luckily, you can upload them to the cloud and start from where you left off! If you already have cloud storage turned on, then they will be automatically saved to the cloud from then on, but if you want to upload an old one, it's still pretty easy. Go to storage, then games, then select the game you want to upload the saves for. Select the save, hit "move," then choose Cloud Saved Games.
11 Flash The Console And Install Custom Firmware
Before we go on, it must be said that this will void your warranty. If you want to experiment with your old 360 however, go right ahead. It's a fairly lengthy process, and you can find guides to it all across the internet, here's a decent one. Flashing the system allows you to do all kinds of fun things with your old console, including playing game backups that you've made on thumb drives, so if you lose the disc, it doesn't matter! It's a pretty neat little thing to do if you're technically-minded.
10 Use The Kinect As A 3D Scanner
If you bought a Kinect and ended up not really using it for gaming, it does have a couple of other cool uses. Of most interest to gamers and tech fans is its ability to work as a 3D scanner. If you download the 3D Scan app, all you have to do is plug the Kinect into your PC and rotate around the object you want to scan. This will then be rendered as a 3D object in the software of your choice, which you can then send to your friends, or, if you're a developer, use it in your games.
9 It Can Be Made Into A Laptop
Not an easy task certainly, but a very cool one. If, like most gamers, you want to be able to game on the go, but can't afford a gaming laptop, how about making your 360 portable? It's not an easy task, and again, a little too lengthy to go into here, but check out this guide here. If you want the ultimate in console portability (except for perhaps the Switch), and you have experience in building computers, give it a go, it's well worth it!
8 It Can Run Custom Interfaces
Want to give your console a more personal touch with a custom interface? Perhaps you want to go back to ye olde days with the Blades interface, or just want something a bit more crisp. Well, you can. Again, this involves voiding the warranty, but is a very cool way to personalize your console. To do so, you need to install a new chip in your console, which will then interfere with the console's unsigned code protection. This will then let you do...well, whatever you like to it. Check out the guide here.
7 Type In Passwords Way More Quickly
Typing in passwords and messages with a controller is a slow process, and it's not got any easier over time. Even the PS4's little touchpad doesn't make it faster. This solution does, however. You see that little slot on the bottom of the Xbox controller, usually used for plugging in headsets? You can use that to plug in a chatpad, which is essentially a mini-keyboard. Add one of these, and you'll be typing out messages and passwords in no time. If that's not enough for you, then keep reading!
6 Play Street Fighter With The Kinect
How do you fancy playing a classic fighting game while also getting your exercise? Another cool little feature that's not advertised about the Kinect, you can use it to play Street Fighter. Take a look around the annals of the internet, and you'll find hackers have made tools that let you play just about anything on the Kinect. The movements of your arms and legs are mapped to movements of the characters, so just be careful not to knock your Player Two out for real!
5 It Would Upscale Original Xbox Games
It's easy to forget now, but do you remember thinking that your original Xbox games look somehow better on the 360? It wasn't just a placebo effect. If you were running a 720P TV, the console actually upscaled the games to HD, letting you experience the worlds of Halo and Mercernaries to a whole other degree. The technology used was the same that the PS4 Pro uses now, which means they ended up looking pretty darn good, and still do today.
4 Plug In A USB Keyboard
This is what I wanted you to hold on for. If a chatpad isn't good enough for you (I get it, they're chunky), then how about a good old-fashioned normal keyboard? It's extremely easy to do. There are two steps to the process. One, get the USB keyboard that you use on your desktop, or if you don't have one, buy one. Two, plug it into the system. That's literally all there is to it, and you have all the convenience of a full-sized keyboard at your disposal!
3 Make It Run Silently With A New Fan
It's time to do the void warranty dance again! Let's face it: the Xbox 360 could get very noisy indeed, on occasion sounding like a 747 was taking off in your lounge. If you want to quieten it down, then the solution is simple: install a new fan. For those of you who are PC gamers, you'll know how to do this already, but if not, it's a fairly straightforward process. You can find instructions here. All you'll need is a new fan and some thermal paste, which you can get from any electronics store.
2 Visualize Your Music
If you fancied taking a trip into a visual wonderland with your favorite tunes, the Xbox 360 was happy to facilitate this. While playing your music, highlight the track on "now playing" and hit X to enter the visualizer. Tapping the buttons or moving the thumbsticks on your controller would let you interact with the crazy shifting patterns. If you were just chilling out with a book or wanted to add a bit of color to a party you were hosting, this was a perfect little feature.
1 Watch Exclusive Movies
Do you remember the battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD? Very much the VHS v Betamax of the 00s, studios declared their allegiance to one side or the other, making their movies exclusive to the format. While almost all of these eventually got Blu-Ray releases after that format won, there's still a point to the HD-DVD player. The little box that you'd connect to your 360 is cheap as chips now, and so are the movies: if you want to watch movies in HD but don't want to spend money on a Blu-Ray player, grab one of these!