Watch out for the Christmas Day download blues
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Watch out for the Christmas Day download blues

If there's a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch under your Christmas tree, consider cracking it open tonight and updating the firmware to beat the Christmas Day broadband traffic jam.

The excitement of unwrapping big ticket items on Christmas morning can quickly turn to despair when you discover that your shiny new toy demands an immediate firmware update. Games consoles are the main culprits, with some features being unavailable until you download an update which can weigh in at several gigabytes.

While your family and friends might love their Christmas games console, they won't love waiting for updates to download.

While your family and friends might love their Christmas games console, they won't love waiting for updates to download.

At this point you're at the mercy of your home broadband connection, if you're still stuck on crappy DSL then an update might take several hours to download. Such a hefty download might be a big ask even if you're on cable or the NBN – especially if your neighbours are also updating their new toys.

You're also at the mercy of the load on the Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo update servers, as new console owners across the country all try to update their boxes on the same day. It's not just game consoles, the same goes for any other high-tech gadget that tends to demand a firmware update on first use.

Then there are updates for the individual games. Updates for 4K-capable consoles and games can be particularly painful, with whopping 100GB downloads not unheard off. Sometimes you can download game patches in the background while you play, other times games refuses to launch until the update has downloaded.

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Think ahead

If you can't rely on your broadband to deliver the goods on Christmas Day then you need to plan ahead. Consider unpacking and updating your new device a few days before Christmas.

Alternatively you might decide that it's best not to connect your console to the internet at all on Christmas Day, so it doesn't know an update is available, although some devices might demand internet access before they'll work. Chances are you'll need to install an update before you can get into the game store or play online games against friends.

If you're going to update your Christmas gifts in advance, it pays to do your homework and check out online set-up guides – especially if don't know your way around the ecosystem.

For example, some devices might require you to create an account, or log into your existing account, before they'll run their first update. If it's a first console for young children then it's easier to just set it up yourself from scratch, but things become more complicated if the console is for someone older, especially if they might resent you spoiling that initial unboxing and set-up experience.

It's obviously a challenge if the console is a gift for a family member who already has a gaming account – even if you know their login and password there's still the risk that they might be sent an email to alert them that a shiny new console has been added to their account – especially if they've enabled two-factor authentication.

It might be best to create your own account, just to install the updates, and then logout so the new owner can login for themselves on Christmas morning. They might need to dive into the menus and set themselves as the primary user.

Have you been caught out by the Christmas Day download blues? What's your plan to deal with hefty software updates?

Adam Turner

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist with a passion for gadgets.

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