If you own an Xbox Series X, an Xbox Series S, or one of the previous generation models, there might well be occasions when you want to get down to some serious gaming, but the main TV screen the console is attached to is already in use—whether that's by family members or housemates.
The solution is to run games from your Xbox but play them on your laptop. It's easier than you might think to stream gameplay to a different device on the same Wi-Fi network. In some scenarios, it even works over the internet too, so you could be sitting on your laptop in a hotel room and still playing games from your Xbox.
This is a lot more straightforward on Windows computers, what with Microsoft making both Windows and the Xbox consoles, but there are also options to talk about if you're on a Mac. Here's everything you need to know, and how to set it up.
How to play Xbox games on a Windows laptop
Xboxes and Windows play very nicely together (thanks, Microsoft). Assuming you're signed into your Microsoft account on both your Xbox and your Windows laptop, and signed into the same Wi-Fi network on both, you're almost there already.
On the Xbox One X and Xbox One S:
- Head to Settings, choose Device & connections, then Remote features
- Check the Enable remote features box (you'll be given a quick report on the state of your internet connection to indicate how well remote play might work).
- Choose Xbox app preferences
- Select Allow connections from any device and Allow game streaming to other devices.
Now it's time to turn your attention to Windows, but leave your console on in the meantime.
Find and launch the Xbox app, which is part of both Windows 10 and Windows 11 (if it's not there for whatever reason, you can download it). The app should be smart enough to spot the Xbox on your local network or even over the web—click the console icon at the top (just to the right of the search bar), then choose the Xbox you want to connect to. You'll be linked to your Xbox console, and you can start playing.
From the same drop-down menu, choose See my consoles list to access a few more options. You'll be able to see games that you've recently played and the achievements that you've racked up on your console, for example. Click the three dots next to your Xbox and choose Rename console if you need to give it a more descriptive name (this might be handy if you've got more than one Xbox in the house). You can pick Remove console as well, to disconnect it from the Xbox app.
You're going to need an Xbox controller plugged into your Windows laptop as well: You can't just start controlling your games with a mouse and keyboard. As with every other part of the process though, it's simple enough, as you can either plug a controller in via USB or connect one as a Bluetooth device.
How to play Xbox games on a MacBook, or other devices
As you might expect, it's not so simple streaming your Xbox games to a MacBook. There's no official Xbox app for macOS, and no official way of streaming whatever's running on your Microsoft console to an Apple computer. If this is something you want to do, you might want to consider investing in a Windows computer.
There is a third-party solution in the form of OneCast, though it only works with the older Xbox One X and Xbox One S consoles, and it will set you back $19.99. You need to do the same setup on the Xbox that we've mentioned above, and then when you launch the OneCast software on macOS the console should be recognized.
One caveat to bear in mind is that OneCast only works across local Wi-Fi networks, not the wider web, so you can't use the application to play on your Xbox from the other side of the world. What's more, you need to use your usual Xbox controller, so you're limited by Bluetooth range there (one floor up or down should be fine).
While Xbox Remote Play isn't officially available for macOS, there are Xbox apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices—so if you have a mobile device you can stream games from your Xbox without much hassle. The Xbox setup is the same, and on your phone or tablet you just need to sign in using your Microsoft account credentials. Again, you'll need to connect an Xbox controller (via Bluetooth) to play.
How to play Xbox Games on a phone or laptop, without an Xbox
One final, related option is Xbox Cloud Gaming, which streams games directly from the cloud rather than your actual Xbox. It works on both Windows and macOS (as well as mobile devices), but you can't get at it for free: You need Xbox Game Pass, which will run you $14.99 a month.
Note that this is separate from the games on your actual Xbox—your purchases and progress are kept separate—but it is one way of getting Xbox gaming working on Apple devices, without even having to buy an Xbox.