In this piece, we look at why you’d set up Xbox port forwarding in your home router’s settings pages. Port passing allows online games to talk though your router to other boxes on the internet.
Further, Xbox port forwarding permits many internet functions on your Xbox One or Xbox 360 boxes. Thus without it, many games will not work. So here, we cover port forwarding tips, practices, and advice for Xbox gamers. This applies to both the Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Understanding Xbox Port Forwarding
Xbox port forwarding provides game traffic paths through a router firewall. It allows outside Xboxes to exchange data with local Xbox consoles behind that “wall”, on your network.
Apps use certain ports. E.g. Remote Desktop in Windows needs port 3389. Or, digital video recorders (DVR) need groups of ports passed to them. Finally, gaming consoles like the Xbox One, need certain ports per game sent on. Thus, without Xbox port forwarding, the games may break.
Your Home Router is Key
Most home routers have a built in firewall. This firewall blocks all data traffic except traffic you want. For instance, as noted, firewalls deny most inbound traffic. They disallow packet passage into the local net. unless told otherwise. Or, they pass the packet if a local Xbox asked for it first. So in other words, to get through, an inbound packet must have been solicited prior, or explicitly authorized. But, for many Xbox games to work, the firewall must pass unsolicited packets. E.g. Push notifications.
Indeed, firewalls know invited packets. How? They keep a table of info about pending requests. When a game console asks for data from the cloud, the firewall notes this. How? It adds an entry to its pending request table, that tells:
- Which local box (local IP address) made the request,
- the time the request appeared.
- Routing details which the outside server should include, for delivering the answers back to the requesting box.
- An expiration time for the request.
If the cloud server answers before the request times out, the firewall allows it to enter the local net.
Then, the router transfers the packet to the asking local box. How? It knows which Xbox to route the packet thus, based on routing data in the packet. Further, such data includes local IP address and port number of the originating box. Thus, port passing gives a means of making exceptions to the firewall’s no-unsolicited-packet-forwarding rule.
Poorly set routers though, can block Xbox port forwarding.
Why Use Xbox Port Forwarding?
Many Xbox games must talk across the internet, without firewalls blocking them. But, most people add some sort of router / firewall for added security. These routers can interfere with internet game play. Yet many folks love playing internet based games, without the headaches of firewalls restricting data flow. Ease of access and security would seem thus, to be conflicting goals. However, Xbox port forwarding allows those internet-based games on Xbox consoles to work while maintaining net security.
How to Set Up Xbox Port Forwarding in Router
So to allow these local devices and apps to work, routers give an Xbox port forwarding capability. They feature a section in their administration pages for setting up port forwarding. Some routers allow setting any port number you wish passed on. But others, in the cheaper lot namely, only forward “well known” ports. So, before buying a router, be sure it allows forwarding the necessary IP ports to your local net.
Passing exact ports to unique boxes limits the number of security “holes” that you’re “punching” in your firewall. But note that port forwarding creates security holes in your router. Then, through these, bad hackers could hurt your net. If this bugs you, set up a separate local network, just for gaming.
However, today’s hardware firewalls are good at forwarding packets securely. That is, they assure that inbound packets from the internet go ONLY to the local machine they’re for. So an extra net, for most gamers, would be over kill.
Do not weaken your hardware firewall, just to make your games work. Some gamers just turn it off altogether. True, This avoids the hassles of setting up port forwarding. Sadly, doing this allows any packets from the internet to enter their local network. Bad idea! Not only does this hurt net security, but the added traffic can slow net speeds. The wiser approach? Take the necessary time to learn about using Xbox port forwarding on your precise router. Then, spend the required time setting the router right. DO NOT just stop the firewall!
Pass the Right Ports for Xbox Port Forwarding to Work
Turn on UPnP to route correct Xbox ports to forward for many games. Specifically, do this in your router settings. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) opens many of the needed ports for Xbox port forwarding to work. The game boxes then work out the port details with your router. Next. they tell it to pass the needed ports without effort from you. Easy? Yes!
Enabling UPnP avoids having to manually find which ports and types (TCP or UDP) to pass. But UPnP creates its own security holes. For example, with UPnP turned on, a rogue app (virus) could spoof your router into passing the wrong ports. That bad code could then use these ports to carry out its nasty tasks in your network. So, you could suffer needless hurt from hackers if you do allow UPnP.
However, disabling UPnP may interrupt operation of other local UPnP devices that you can access via the internet. So if you disable UPnP, be sure to test all devices locally to make sure they all still work.
When sending packets to a certain port on an Xbox, pick that box from the router’s list of active devices. For sure, most routers keep a list of active local devices. Thus, you can find this in the router’s admin pages.
While many routers allow manual entry of the Xbox IP address to get the forwarded packets, this may cause problems. When that IP address changes, your Xbox may fail. Though many routers never update IP addresses once granted, there’s no guarantee that they won’t.
We recommend proceeding with caution. That is, take extra time to understand which ports you need. For instance, learn which ports the games you wish to play need. Indeed, the games you play drive which ports to pass, and you’ll often find them in the game manuals.
However, avoid blanket router fixes. Do not, for example, disable your firewall. While this may get your games working, it also puts your network in peril from hackers. Also, avoid passing large port group ranges. E.g. Ports 5000-8000. In fact, the more ports passed, the less secure your net is.
Some security risks always happen when passing any ports. But you can reduce these by choosing the right ports to pass. In short, pass ONLY the ports you need, and no others. Indeed, you can keep your net secure while loving your Xbox internet games too.
Lastly, we offer some decent yet cheap gaming routers that allow port forwarding to Xbox. We especially like the Asus RT-AC87R gigabit dual band router for gaming because it’s fast. In essence, it has a multi-core processor and extensive settings. Besides, it gives gigabit speeds on all its Ethernet ports. Thus, the RT-AC87R is an excellent choice of demanding gamers.
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References for Xbox Port Forwarding
- 2019-07-16: Tuned the key word targeting for ‘Xbox Port Forwarding’, removed ad code, and added more tags and links.
- 2018-03-07: Updated title and post content.
- 2016-12-08: Originally published.