What is a Microsoft Account? A Guide to Setting Up on Xbox

By Sam Quirke,
Setting up Xbox Live

So you've picked up an Xbox One over the festive season, for yourself or for a loved one. Whether you've purchased an Xbox One S or an Xbox One X, the hardware setup is pretty straight forward; plug in your power cable and your HDMI and switch on your controller, and you're good to go. But to get much further into your new Xbox experience, you're going to need a Microsoft Account and a gamertag. This guide will explain how that works.

This guide is part of a series aimed at first time Xbox owners. TrueAchievements is the largest Xbox community site on the internet, allowing players to track their gaming achievements, discuss strategies and compete in contests and leaderboards. Once you have set yourself up on Xbox, you can register with us for free using your gamertag.

What is a Microsoft Account?

You will need a Microsoft Account to take advantage of most of the services that Xbox provides – purchasing content from the Xbox Store, connecting with friends, gaming online, using cloud saves and more. Signing up for a Microsoft account and using it on your console allows you to access Xbox Live, which means you can start earning achievements while playing games too.

A Microsoft Account comprises Xbox plus other Microsoft products – Windows, Office, Outlook, Skype and more. If you already have a Microsoft account that you use for logging into Windows or Skype, we recommend that you use the same account for Xbox that you use for everything else. This is because Xbox is more than just the console these days; there are Xbox enabled games on mobile, on PC, even a couple on Nintendo Switch. To keep all of your purchases, your friends and your achievements together, it's best to stick to one account.

How do I set up a Microsoft Account on Xbox One?

Set up a microsoft account

When you start up your Xbox, after picking your location and network settings you will be prompted to log in to an existing Microsoft Account, or set up a new one.

If you have a Microsoft account, you can just sign in with your email address or phone number, and your password. If you don't have a Microsoft account, it's pretty simple: hit the "Get a New Email button" when prompted during your Xbox setup, or go to Microsoft's website to start account creation. You will just have to pick an email and a password, and set up an alternate method of contact for security. Once you've set up, you'll effectively have an Outlook account, an Xbox account, a Skype account and more, all under one simple single-sign in solution.

You'll also be able to use it to register with TrueAchievements to start tracking your Xbox game progression as well as engage with the community. It's one of many sign-in options on TrueAchievements, but it's one that we recommend.

Once your Microsoft Account is loaded onto the Xbox, the next job is to add your Gamertag, if there isn't one associated with that Account already.

What is an Xbox Gamertag?

Set up a microsoft account

A player's Xbox Gamertag is their user name and identity in the Xbox ecosystem. It will be the name that appears in the top corner of your Xbox dashboard when you sign in to your Xbox; it'll be the name that your friends see in their friends list once you connect with them; it will be the name that appears above your character's head, or in team lists, or in leaderboards, in any game with multiplayer or online connectivity.

The only way to get an official Gamertag is to create or sign into a Microsoft account using an email address, and then picking your gamertag from there. The Xbox will take you through this process if you haven't set up a Microsoft account before, or you can do it on Microsoft's website.

What is a gamertag?

An Xbox gamertag can be up to 12 characters long and now supports Unicode and its extensions, meaning that players can use 20 international alphabets – Xbox say that's 200 languages that a Gamertag can support. It used to be that a gamertag had to be unique; if a player in the Xbox ecosystem already had a tag, you couldn't choose the same one. That's all changed; now gamers who choose a non-unique tag will get some numbers attached to the end of their chosen tag. This numeric suffix will appear everywhere except in friends lists; to ensure that players can be differentiated, your suffix will appear in games if there is another Xbox player out there with your tag.

Players can't control which numbers they get in their suffix – this is auto-assigned by Xbox. By default, the suffix will be four digits; however if players have a full 12-character gamertag only three digits will be used. In theory then, duplicated 12-character tags could run out of suffix options quicker than shorter tags; but it'd take 1000 new Xbox gamers to pick the exact same gamertag to reach that limit. If you happen to pick an entirely unique tag, you won't get a suffix at all – and you never will, as you were the first to pick that name.

Set up a microsoft account

Your gamertag doesn't have to be related to the name on your Microsoft Account; in fact we recommend that you choose something different. Gamertags are publically visible by necessity, whereas you can hide your email – so it's best to keep the private address private.

It's worth noting that Xbox won't take kindly to attempts to say something rude, offensive or derogatory in your gamertag, so just don't do it.

How do I change my Xbox gamertag?

Let's say you're coming back to Xbox after a long break, and your gamertag from the 360 days just isn't cutting it anymore. After all, with the new system allowing multiple versions of the same gamertag, you don't have to be x_X~D0nnieDARKO~X_x any more unless you really want to. Depending on how you acquired your Microsoft account, Xbox may have even assigned you a random one by default that you haven't seen until now.

Any player can change their gamertag once for free. If you want to change your mind again, it'll cost $9.99, £9.99 or your local equivalent. You can change your gamertag via the Xbox website, or you can change it on your Xbox One by pressing the Guide button, heading to your profile, selecting "Customise profile" and then selecting your gamertag. Xbox will suggest some options for you – often unintentionally brilliant – or you can put your own tag in.

What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

Set up a microsoft account

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you what you need to play with or against other Xbox players online, and it gives you access to download and play over 100 games on your Xbox One and over 100 games on PC.

As of the holiday season in 2019, the Microsoft Account linking process on Xbox One includes a prompt for signing up to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. If you're wondering if you should do it, you can check out our Xbox Game Pass guide for all the details.

The short answer is yes, you should sign up – at the time of writing, 3 months for £1 or $1 is the best deal you can get for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

Ultimate 3 Months

Ultimate 3 Months

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes over 100 high-quality games for console, PC, phones and tablets, all the benefits of Xbox Live Gold, and an EA Play membership, all for one low monthly price (subscription continues automatically at regular price). Play together with friends and discover your next favorite game. See more below.

After any promotional period, subscription continues to be charged at the then-current regular price (subject to change, plus applicable taxes), unless cancelled in Microsoft account. You’ll be notified before any price changes.

Joining Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will upgrade your remaining Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass for Console or Xbox Game Pass for PC time into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for the same amount of time, up to 36 months. All conversions are final. See xbox.com/gamepass for details.

See Xbox Game Pass Ultimate terms and details in the Product Description below.

If you are going to go for it, you will need to add a payment option to your Microsoft Account if you don't already; you can use PayPal, or a credit card, or your mobile.

Once you've logged in with a Microsoft account, retrieved or created a Gamertag, and decided if you want Xbox Game Pass or not, you're ready to go. We recommend you get familiar with some other features of Xbox with the rest of our series, including a guide to keeping your kids safe on Xbox, what Achievements and gamerscore are all about, and using Xbox's mobile apps to chat and remote install games.
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Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.