How to Set Up the Oculus Rift and Start Playing Games

The Oculus Rift offers a polished virtual reality experience, even though it doesn’t have the room-scale virtual reality or touch controllers like the HTC Vive–yet. Here’s how to set up your Oculus Rift, and what you’ll need to know ahead of time.

The entire setup process should take you between 30 minutes and one hour. It’s much easier than preparing for and setting up the HTC Vive, as you don’t have to plan out a large space and arrange base stations. The Rift is intended as a seated and standing experience, not one where you walk around, so there are fewer “moving parts”, so to speak.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • An Oculus Rift: The Oculus Rift package comes with a number of accessories you’ll need. In addition to the Rift headset, it comes with a single sensor camera that monitors the position of your head, a basic wireless remote, a wireless Xbox One controller, 2 AA batteries for the controller, a USB dongle for connecting that wireless controller to your PC, and a USB extension cable if you need it for the dongle. The Oculus Rift headset includes built-in headphones that work well.
  • A powerful gaming PC: The Oculus Rift requires a powerful gaming PC to deliver smooth performance. It’s more demanding than what you’d need for normal PC gaming. Here’s how to check if your PC is ready for virtual reality.
  • Extra cables and extension cords (for some people): Depending on how far your computer is from the place where you plan on using your Rift, you may need one HDMI extension cable and two USB 3.0 extension cables to reach further. The HDMI and USB cables connected to the Rift headset reach 4 meters (about 13 feet), while the camera sensor’s USB cable reaches 2.5 meters (about 8 feet).
  • A DisplayPort-to-HDMI or DVI-to-HDMI adapter (for some people): I ran into a problem here–my NVIDIA GTX 980 TI graphics card includes only a single HDMI port, and I already had my TV connected to the HDMI port. However, my NVIDIA graphics card does also include three DisplayPort ports. I needed a DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter to connect my TV to the graphics card and free up the HDMI port for the Oculus Rift. Be sure to check if you have a spare HDMI port available on your GPU!

It’s a good idea to confirm you have all the required hardware in advance. It’s no fun to take time out of the process to run to Best Buy and buy a little adapter.

Start the Oculus Setup Tool

When you have all the hardware and are ready to set things up, visit the Oculus Rift Setup page in your web browser, download the Oculus Rift Setup tool, and run it on your computer. This tool will automatically download the required software and walk you through the entire setup process.

The Oculus Setup Tool largely does an excellent job of walking you through unpacking your hardware, properly connecting it, adjusting the headset, creating an Oculus account for you, and setting up the software.

Be sure to take the protective plastic film off everything–you’ll find it both on the headset’s lenses and on the camera sensor.

Connect the cables to your computer when requested. Both USB cables should be connected to USB 3.0 ports on your computer. These are usually blue inside (but not always). If you see USB ports without blue inside, they may just be USB 2.0 ports.

When connecting the HDMI port, be sure to connect it to the HDMI port on your graphics card. Your computer may have an HDMI port that connects to the motherboard’s integrated graphics, but you don’t want to use that one for the Rift.

If you do something wrong, the setup wizard won’t let you continue. As long as it says the connection status is “OK”, you know you’ve set it up properly.

The rest of the process should be very clear. When you’re done, the wizard will instruct you to wear the headset, and will play some demos for you. After it’s done, it will enter the “Oculus Home” environment, a virtual room where you can launch games.

While using the remote, it’s helpful to wear the lanyard around your wrist so you won’t lose it or drop it.

How to Configure Your Oculus Rift to Reduce Blurriness

There’s a good chance your Oculus Rift will still look a little blurry, even after you finish going through the wizard. Bear in mind that there are several ways you can adjust the headset:

  • There are three velcro straps–one on each side of the headset and one on the top. Undo the straps, wear the headset, and then adjust the straps until it feels comfortable and secure. It should be secure and not move around, but you shouldn’t have to make it uncomfortably tight. You don’t have to loosen the straps to take the headset on and off, so you can adjust it once and leave it–unless other people will be using the headset, too.
  • The visor can be angled independently of the straps. You’ll also want to move it up and down on your face until you find the sweet spot. Don’t wear the headset like a pair of glasses resting on your nose. Move the visor down until the piece of foam on the top of the headset is around the middle of your forehead. The difference in clarity will be immediately apparent if you’re looking at something in the Rift while adjusting this.
  • The IPD, or “interpupillary distance,” can be adjusted by moving the switch on the bottom of the headset to the left of or right. This adjusts how far apart the lenses are. Adjust this while wearing the headset until it looks best.

While wearing the headset, you can press the “Oculus” button on the bottom of the remote or the “Xbox” button at the center of your Xbox One controller. On the universal menu that appears, select the “Adjust Your Lenses” icon at the right side of the screen. You’ll see an “Adjust Your Lenses” screen that will guide you through moving the headset up and down and adjusting the IPD using the sliding switch until it looks best.

How to Use Oculus Home and the Universal Menu

To enter the Oculus Home environment, just put on the headset while the Oculus application is running on your PC. You’ll automatically enter the “Oculus Home” environment, a virtual room which you can launch games and apps from, as well as browse the store. The center of your view appears as a cursor, so just look at something and then press the “Select” button on the remote or “A” button on the controller to activate it.

You can browse available software and install it from within the Oculus Home environment on your headset, or use the Oculus application on the Windows desktop.

If you’re looking for something to play, you can get “Lucky’s Tale” from the store–it’s included free with every Oculus Rift. It’s a fun little 3D platformer that will ease you into the Rift very nicely.

If you want to revisit the demos you saw when you first put on the headset–or you want to show them to someone else–you can download the free “Oculus Dreamdeck” application from the Oculus store. It includes these demos and more.

To access the universal menu, press the Oculus button on the bottom of the remote or press the “Xbox” button on the center of your Xbox One controller while wearing the headset. You’ll see a menu with a variety of options, including a volume control, time, and indicators that tell you whether the remote and controller are connected or not.


There are many other free virtual reality experiences and demonstrations on the Oculus Store, as well as larger paid games. Browse the store to find more VR content.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.