Xbox Games Library Screen

You may have seen advice on how to share your Xbox One’s digital games with your friends. But Microsoft doesn’t intend for you to share your game library when you’re not there. Doing so puts you at risk.

A Brief History of Xbox One Promises

Xbox Home Screen with Apex Legends feature

When Microsoft first announced the Xbox One, it came with the promise of next-generation features and would require a dedicated internet connection that allowed the console to phone home every 24 hours. In exchange, Microsoft promised that you could play games without inserting the disc (after the first time) and share your digital game library with friends.

The 24-hour check-in was a necessary evil to make those features happen—especially the ability to play your disc-bought games without putting the disc into the Xbox. If you gave away or sold your disc, your Xbox would eventually know you didn’t own the game anymore and would not let you play the digital copy anymore.

Unfortunately, Microsoft bungled the marketing and failed mightily at damage control. Gamers weren’t happy with a required internet connection, and Microsoft didn’t handle itself well when those gamers made their displeasure loudly known. Sony, on the other hand, put on a masterclass in capitalizing on another company’s missteps.

In the end, Microsoft capitulated and revoked the internet phone home requirement entirely. But, with that concession, it also removed the other great promises. Gamers would have to insert discs, and they couldn’t share their digital libraries. Effectively, the Xbox One now works exactly like the Xbox 360 when it comes to buying, selling, and using games.

Don’t Mark Your Friend’s Xbox as Your Home Xbox

My home Xbox setting screen

The most common advice for sharing your library is pretty straight forward. Go to your friend’s house, add your Microsoft account to their Xbox, and mark that Xbox as your home Xbox. In fairness, this will work and give your friend permanent access to your digital library. But the downsides and risks outweigh the benefits.

Here’s the worst part: You have to leave your Microsoft account logged into your friend’s Xbox. That means they have access to your credit card and can purchase games and add-ons in your name with your money. To mitigate the purchase issue, you could disable auto-sign in on their Xbox and require a PIN to make purchases. But this isn’t the only problem.

Your friend won’t just have access to your games; they’ll have control of all your “home Xbox” benefits. If you have Xbox Live Gold, you can share this with anyone who signs into your home Xbox. But, since your friend’s Xbox has been marked as your home Xbox, anyone who signs into the Xbox at your house won’t have Xbox Live Gold. If you have friends and family living with you, they’ll have to buy Gold for themselves.

You can only share your digital games like this with one Xbox. So, while your friend can access your digital library on their Xbox at any time, you have to be signed in to access the games on your Xbox. Any friends or family who log onto your Xbox will either have to sign in as you or buy their own copy of any games you own. You’ve essentially given your digital sharing benefits away to an Xbox not in your house.

You might think you’ll change up who has the “Home Xbox” whenever needed, but Microsoft only allows five changes per year. That’s more than enough to support you if an Xbox dies and you get a replacement, but not enough to let you frequently switch for game playing.

Please Don’t Give Away Your Microsoft Credentials

Microsoft Account Page
Entries like Privacy and Payment & Billing should scream “don’t give access to this.”

You might look at all the warnings above and decide that your friend can be trusted, especially with the mitigation technique of blocking automatic sign-in and purchases. But there’s another piece of advice some websites have offered—and it’s much worse.

These sites point out that the mere act of signing into an Xbox will, temporarily, provide access to your digital library to anyone else who also signs in. So here’s their solution: give your friend your Microsoft account credentials, including your password. You can keep your Xbox set as your Home Xbox, and your friend can log in as you whenever they want to play a game in your library.

Please don’t ever do this.

Microsoft accounts aren’t just for Xbox. With your full credentials, your friend has access to your Microsoft email, your Onedrive cloud storage, your Skype account, any Windows 10 device linked to your Microsoft account, and your payment information. Unlike the method above, there’s no mitigation to prevent your friend from purchasing Xbox games, Microsoft Store PC games, or apps with your account.

And again, even if you trust your friend beyond doubt, there’s a significant downside to this method. Microsoft only allows you to sign into a single Xbox at a time. If you’re in the middle of a game on your Xbox and your friend logs onto their Xbox with your account, you will be kicked out, and your game will immediately end. Better hope you had a recent auto-save.

Game Sharing Is for When You’re With Your Friends

If you’re wondering when you can share your digital game library with your friends, the answer is pretty simple. You can share when you’re with your friends. Microsoft didn’t intend the above features to be permanent methods to share games with an Xbox in someone else’s house. The purpose of the Home Xbox feature is to conveniently share your games on the most used Xbox console in your house. There’s a reason Microsoft calls it “Home Xbox” and not “Friend’s Xbox.”

To share games with your friends, you just need to be with them. When you are both playing on your friend’s Xbox, sign in with your Microsoft account, and they will have access to your digital library. When you’re done playing, sign out, and your games will come with you. That’s what Microsoft intended and trying any other route will lead to problems accessing your game library at home—or, worse, a friendship ended over lost money. Don’t take that risk—it’s just not worth it.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code.
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