Your kids have torn the wrappings off a brand-new Microsoft Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, or Sony PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, that means you now have some work to do. Although setting up a new video game console isn't overly complex, it's definitely more time-consuming than popping some batteries into a toy. Here's how to set up a video game console without losing your mind.
By the way, there's also a new video game console in town: Take a look at our review of the LeapFrog LeapTV, for kids 3 to 8. And be sure to visit our guide to video-game consoles, tech toys, and kid tablets for reviews, tips, and more how-tos.
Placement: The Xbox One is large and can only be placed horizontally, so make sure that you have appropriate space to place the console and keep it ventilated. Don't stack it with other devices, as that could lead to overheating.
TV connection: You'll be using an HDMI cable, which is included with the console. Plug one end into the HDMI OUT TO TV port on the console. Plug the other end into an HDMI port on your TV.
Internet connection: The Xbox One requires an Internet connection for the initial setup. No Ethernet cable comes with the Xbox One, so you'll have to supply your own or connect wirelessly. If you have an Ethernet cable, and your router is nearby, just plug one end of the cable into the LAN port on the back of the console and the other end to an available LAN port on your router. If you don't have a wired option available, check the wireless Internet setup in the Onscreen Setup section.
Set-top box connection (optional): If you want to watch cable TV through your Xbox One, you'll need an additional HDMI cable. Plug one end into the output of the set-top box and the other end into the "HDMI IN FROM CABLE BOX" port on the Xbox One.
Connecting the Kinect (optional): Position the Kinect camera as close to the center of your TV as possible—either directly above or below the screen. Plug the Kinect cable into the appropriate port on the back of the console.
Get started: Tap the Xbox logo on the front of the console to turn it on. Load up the controller with AA batteries, and follow the onscreen prompts to pair it with the console. Continue following the prompts to select your language and region, and then set up your Internet connection. Remember, an Internet connection is required for this setup.
Once you're connected, you'll be prompted to update the console's firmware. Completed the update and choose your time zone.
The next steps are a series of prompts that will guide you through setting up your Kinect, if you have one. It is a straightforward process that will help you set up your camera, microphone, facial recognition, and privacy settings.
Next, sign in or create a Microsoft account and your profile with information such as your birthday, backup e-mail or phone number, and whether you'd like promotional emails.
You'll then be given privacy options. You should set a passcode if you have kids using the console, so that they can't access all of the features (or spend all your money on games).
You'll be given a default Gamertag and picture, which can be changed in the Settings menu under Profile. Choose the color you prefer for your theme, and you're all set.
You also get a prompt to sign up for Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft's gaming subscription service. You'll need it for playing games online, but you can sign up for it any time. So just skip it for now, unless you're going to jump right into online gaming.
Set up parental controls: If the console is going to be played exclusively by a child, you can jump right into parental controls. You can create individual accounts for multiple users, and customize the parental controls for each account. Check Microsoft's directions on adding family members.
Choose the account you want to change parental controls for, and select the Settings tile at the bottom of the screen. Choose the Privacy and Online Safety menu, then choose the privacy level you are comfortable with. All of them are clearly defined on the screen. The default options may be fine for some parents, but we recommend that you check out the Custom option, where you can choose exactly any features that you want to block.
If you're going to be watching TV through the Xbox One, choose the TV tile under the Games and Apps menu. If you're not connecting your cable box, you can skip this section entirely.
The onscreen prompts will lead you through setting up the Xbox One Guide, which shows you what's available on your cable service.
Enter your ZIP code. Your cable box and TV may then be automatically detected. If not, just choose the manual option and select the appropriate box and/or TV.
If you have a Kinect, you can configure it to power on your TV when you say the phrase "Xbox on." Bear in mind that you cannot control your TV or cable box without a Kinect or a separately purchased IR blaster.
Finally, choose whether you want the Xbox to default to the home screen or live TV when you turn the console on.
For more info or if you have any problems, check out Microsoft's online setup guide.
Placement: The Wii U can be placed either horizontally or vertically; you'll need a stand if you want to place it vertically. The deluxe version of the console comes with a stand, but the basic does not. Place the console in a well-ventilated area, and don't stack the console with other devices, to avoid overheating. If you are using the Wii U's sensor bar, place it above or below the screen, toward the middle of the TV.
TV connection: Connect one end of the provided HDMI cable to the HDMI port on the Wii U and the other end to an available HDMI port on your TV. If you don't have a TV with an HDMI port, you'll have to buy the Wii A/V cables or component cables to connect to your TV. If you are upgrading from the original Wii, save the A/V cables that came with it: They'll work with the Wii U.
To turn on the console, just press the power button on the front. Press the power button on the GamePad to turn it on. Then press the sync button on the front of the console, and the sync button on the back of the GamePad, to pair them. (You'll need a pencil or thin object to press the button on the GamePad) Enter the symbols on the GamePad touch screen that match the ones on your TV screen, and your GamePad and console are paired.
Follow the onscreen prompts to select your language, region, date, and time. The resolution and aspect ratio should be set automatically. If you run into a problem, tap TV Display Settings on the GamePad and set them manually.
The TV controls are the next part of the first-time set up. But if you don't want to use your GamePad to control your cable box and TV, just press Skip, and ignore this section of our guide.
Follow the onscreen prompts to select which devices will be controlled and select the manufacturers of those devices. You'll then test to make sure the commands are controlling the TV and cable box correctly.
Press the TV button on the GamePad to access the remote. Choose where the sensor bar is placed, either above or below the screen, and accept the license agreement.
The Wii U has no Ethernet port, so you will have to use a wireless Internet connection. Choose your network, enter the password, and test your connection. (Or you could choose not to connect to the Internet, and skip this section.)
New user: If you have a Nintendo Network ID, you can sign in. If not, you'll have to create one. To create a new user, first create a Mii (onscreen avatar). Customize your Mii's appearance and nickname, and then register it.
Create a Network ID—or skip it for now if you don't plan on using Internet features. If a firmware update is required (which it probably will be), this step will be skipped and you will prompted to do it again when you want to use Nintendo's Internet services.
Follow the onscreen prompts to set a PIN number and security question. Register your e-mail address. It will need to be verified, but not immediately.
Choose which features you want to restrict. When you're done, select Go Back, and then Quit.
Standby mode: The final step is choosing what functions you would like the Wii U to perform in standby mode. For example, it can perform firmware updates so you won't have to wait for them when the system is powered on.
For more info or if you have any problems, check out Nintendo's support page.
Placement: The console can be placed horizontally or vertically. It will stand vertically without a stand, but we recommend that you purchase one for added stability. Make sure it is placed in a well-ventilated area and avoid stacking it with other devices to avoid overheating.
TV connection: HDMI is the only option for connecting a PS4 to a TV. Connect the console to an available HDMI port on your TV using the provided cable.
Internet connection: No Ethernet cable comes with this console, so you'll have to supply your own or connect wirelessly. If you have an Ethernet cable and your router is nearby just plug one end of the cable into the LAN port on the back of the console and the other end to an available LAN port on your router. If you don't have a wired option available, check the wireless Internet setup in the Onscreen Setup section.
PlayStation Camera (optional): If you purchased the PlayStation Camera, plug it into the port on the back of the console now to avoid having to move it again later.
You're now ready to turn on the console by touching the small power button located in the front top portion of the console. You'll hear a beep and the strip on top of the console will change to blue, indicating that it is powering up. It will turn to white when it is completely booted.
Get started: Plug your DualShock 4 controller into one of the front USB ports with the provided USB cable. Follow the onscreen prompts to choose your language, connect to the Internet, set up your camera (if you own one), and select a time zone. Accept the license agreements, and you're done. You'll automatically be logged into the system as User 1. If you're connected to the Internet, launch the PlayStation store, and you'll be prompted to update the PS4's firmware.
Create a PlayStation Now account: You'll need to create a PlayStation Network account in order to access Internet features. This account should be set up for parents—not children. It's your master account, and you cannot fully block access to online content on this user profile. Once you've made a profile, you'll be given a tutorial on how to use the PlayStation Camera.
Set up parental controls: If you're not connected to the Internet, simply go into the Settings menu, select Parental Controls, and set the control to a level you're comfortable with. But if you are connected to the Internet, you'll want to password-protect your master account so that kids can't access it. This is done under Login Settings in the Settings menu.
Now create a sub-account by going back to the Settings menu and then the Parental Controls menu. Creating a sub-account is time-consuming and requires the use of a PC to check your e-mail and change settings. The onscreen prompts will walk you through the whole process.
This is the only way to control access to user-created content, which can be inappropriate for children. For a thorough walk-through, watch the video below.
Log out of the PS4 and select New User, log in with the child's e-mail (the same one you just used to create the sub-account). Follow the onscreen prompts to set up their PlayStation Network account and privacy settings. Finally, activate this as their primary PS4, and they are ready to play.
For more info or if you have any problems, check out Sony's set-up guide.