Xbox can download updates in ‘Energy Saver’ mode – it’s time to ditch ‘Instant On’ Standby

Xbox Series X Header

In an update about Microsoft and Xbox’s efforts to become more sustainable, the company has revealed that Xbox consoles can now handle system and game updates (in theory) while in its ‘Energy Saver’ sleep mode. This is now the default energy setting for newly set up consoles, as opposed to the ‘Instant On’ setting that was previously needed and has seemingly now been rebranded to ‘Standby’ in the March update.

This is a big improvement for the Xbox family’s energy-saving credentials. Depending on the hardware model, the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 are able to drop to 1-3W while maintaining an internet connection and waking when updates are needed. For the same functionality with Xbox set to Instant On, you’d see 10-15W consumption 24/7, depending on model. At launch the Xbox Series X would consume almost 30W, though this was remedied by a firmware update.

The strangest things is that this isn’t actually a new feature. From reporting on Xbox power consumption in January 2021, Microsoft told Ars Technica that automatic updates were actually possible while in energy saving mode:

A Microsoft spokesperson clarifies that “if the console is in energy saving mode with automatic updates enabled, the console will wake, check for updates and download them during the maintenance window (if available), shutting down again after the download completes. This occurs once every 24 hours. If the console is in energy saving mode but the user has opted for automatic updates to be disabled, the console will only check for or download updates when the user manually does so from My Games & Apps.”

So why the hell has Microsoft not been hyping up this functionality? Considering that there are millions of Xbox devices out there and that energy efficiency has been in the spotlight for the last decade, and is becoming massively more important as we see energy prices skyrocketing, why has Microsoft not be shouting from the rooftops about how this is now possible? Every incremental drop in power consumption helps when considering the population as a whole.

It does seem that the March update released this week has shifted the focus. The wording in the Xbox Sleep Mode settings screen now reads:

Energy saver:

  • Lowest power consumption – about 20 times less than Standby when the console is not on or update.
  • Environmentally friendlier.


  • Consumes more power
  • Needed for remote features

Still, more emphasis could be placed on the difference in energy consumption and the features possible in each mode – Quick Resume works in both modes, and even after a full shut-down, for example – and give hard figures for users.

Perhaps the fly in the ointment is that… it often seems that the Xbox sleep mode updates don’t actually work. While I know with certainty that I can start a download on PS5 and then switch it to Rest Mode to lower consumption while it does its thing, I have no such faith in Xbox. With the latest system software installed on my Xbox Series X, I set it to Energy Saver mode last night, checked that background updates were enabled, and started the backlog of 15 game updates before putting it to sleep. Checking right now, no progress has been made on any of these downloads. These were all updates that persisted while the console was in Instant On in recent days as well. I am not alone in this.

So basically, this is good news from Microsoft, except that it’s not really news, and the feature doesn’t really work reliably anyway. Hopefully there’s further improvements for reliability to come.

Source: Xbox, Ars Technica, Reddit

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1 Comment

  1. I think you’ve answered your own question why Microsoft aren’t shouting about this feature; why promote something that doesn’t work properly? They’d just risk loads of negative comments about how people’s games aren’t getting updated.

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