The Xbox Insider Program is founded on the idea that allowing early access to new builds and features helps both Team Xbox and the Xbox Community. As an Xbox Insider, you to get a sneak peek at planned features, and it’s a great way for our teams to gather feedback from the people that matter: our customers. Previewing new updates also allows our engineers to find potential issues that can only be spotted by testing at scale. Recently, with our 1806 OS update and subsequent QFE (a smaller update used to provide quick fixes between preview windows), we were able to mitigate an issue where a network connection could be lost when using “Instant on” mode on the Xbox One. We know this sort of bug can get in the way of your leisure time, and we appreciate our Xbox Insiders for providing us with an opportunity to test fixes and get everyone back to enjoying their games more seamlessly.
For today’s article, we spoke with one of our Supportability friends, Aaron, to talk about the recent build and to see how feedback and customer support can influence what goes into future updates.
Hi Aaron, thanks for sitting down with us today! Can you give our readers a quick introduction?
Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’m a Supportability PM and have been with Team Xbox for about 11.5 years.
As a Supportability PM, what kind of challenges do you deal with?
Most of my job is about organization and communication. Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting the right information to the right people, and sometimes that can include the millions of Xbox fans across social media.
Do you have a recent example of that?
Sure. We recently uncovered a bug that could cause you to lose network connectivity when your console powers up from ‘Instant-On’ mode. One of the things that my customer support team and I noticed was a piece of incorrect advice circulating Reddit and other feeds.
When people across Reddit were experiencing this and talking about potential fixes, one theme they kept coming back to was clearing the alternate MAC address. This does resolve the issue but not for the reason you think. Instead, it creates an illusion that something is wrong with the Network Settings and that the MAC address is corrupted. This is 100% incorrect.
What is a MAC Address?
A MAC address is a hardware identifier. For a device on a network, it operates much the same as an email address, or a house address, or a name. Everything connected to a network has a MAC address – a printer, a PC, or an Xbox console. In general terms, it’s the ID that a home network router or switch uses to send packets of data to a specific network-connected device.
Why would a user ever want to enter an Alternate MAC Address?
There is only one reason that a user would ever manually enter an alternate MAC address on an Xbox One: if they are trying to connect to a secure network that only allows devices to connect that have been whitelisted by their MAC address.
Why would a user need to clear the Alternate MAC address?
The field for the alternate MAC address is empty by default. The only time it would need to be cleared is if a user had entered an alternate MAC address previously and is now experiencing network issues because two devices with the same MAC address are trying to connect at the same time. If an Alternate MAC Address was never entered, clearing it does nothing except restart the console because the field is already blank.
How did this myth get introduced and why do so many people think that it fixes something?
In the early days of the Xbox One, pressing the power button on most consoles puts it into a sleep mode (Instant On mode) as opposed to fully shutting the console down. Back then, there were only two ways to completely shut down the console: holding down the power button for 10 seconds or pulling the power cord.
As we began providing customer support for the Xbox One, we realized that a full reboot was a handy tool for resolving certain issues. That said, there were still instances where users accidentally put their Xbox One to sleep instead of initiating a full restart — after all, 10 seconds can feel like a long time when you’re holding down a button. Because of this, clearing the alternate MAC address became a customer support step not because it’s particularly useful, but instead because it forces a full reboot. In short, clearing the alternate MAC address essentially became a workaround meant to eliminate the guess work that went into manually powering the console down.
What did you do about this once you discovered how the myth started?
When I heard about the step and the reason for its creation, I went and worked with engineering to build the ‘Restart console’ feature into the guide. Not only was this faster for users, but it created a set of steps that was easier for customer support agents to share with users.
After the interview, Aaron picked up a controller to show us the steps for both processes in-person. Here’s a comparison between restarting from the guide and clearing an alternate MAC address:
Restarting from the Guide
- Press the Xbox button
- Move right to the System Tab
- Scroll down and select Restart Console
- Confirm by selecting Restart button.
Clearing Alternate MAC Address to restart console
- Press the Xbox button
- Move right to the System Tab
- Scroll down and select Settings
- Scroll down to Network
- Select Network Settings
- Scroll down and select Advanced Settings
- Scroll down and select Alternate MAC Address
- Select the Clear button
- Select the Restart button.
As you can see, clearing the Alternate MAC Address is a more complex experience with the exact same outcome as using the Restart button – something you can do with just a few button clicks.