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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Open up your Xbox One’s NAT via AirPort Utility

The other night I was having trouble meeting up with some friends in Elite Dangerous on my Xbox One; a little research into the issue yielded the information that the Network Address Translation (NAT) status of the Xbox can cause problems with multiplayer games.

NAT is a technology that lets traffic from the Internet at large reach the correct device on your home network, and vice versa. Because most home networks now involve some combination of modem, gateway, and router, you generally have one external, public IP address that faces the world, and several internal, private IP addresses that let your devices talk to each other locally. (Think of it like regular postal mail versus interoffice mail: At some point, a piece of regular mail sent to someone at a business address has to be translated to reach the correct person within the office.)

In the past, my Xbox’s NAT type has usually been “Open”, the best case scenario, but when I checked this time, I discovered it had dropped to “Moderate.” (The worst option is “Strict.”)

So I set out to fix it. Most newish routers can generally handle NAT automatically, thanks to technologies like Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) or Port Mapping Protocol (NAT-PMP), but even though my slightly old AirPort Extreme has the latter—enabled under the Network Options dialog of the Network pane in AirPort Utility—it’s not always the most reliable of systems.

Fortunately, Microsoft’s Xbox support offers suggestions for improving your NAT situation, and it involves our old friend manual port forwarding.

First, I fired up AirPort Utility and assigned my Xbox One a static IP based on its MAC address, using the DCHP Reservations part of the Network pane. (Hit the + button and fill out the MAC address, which you can get from the Xbox One’s Advanced Settings section of Network Settings, then pick an unused IP address within your network’s range.) This ensures that every time my Xbox One powers up, it gets the same IP address on my local network. In the interoffice mail example, it’s like making sure my Xbox is sitting in the same office everyday, not hopping from desk to desk, depending on what’s free.

Static IP
Replace 0’s with your actual Xbox MAC address, of course.

Then I used the Port Settings option on the same screen to create a new rule mapping most of the ports specified by Microsoft in the above support doc to that static IP.

Yep, I said “most,” not “all,” because as it turns out there was a slight wrinkle in my plan. Two of the ports that Xbox Live wants to use to communicate—UDP ports 500 and 4500—are already being forwarded on my network, because they’re also used by my OS X Server’s VPN setup.

Doh.

Port Mapping

The good news is that even just forwarding that subsection of the ports seems to have solved my NAT problem. Hopefully, that will continue to be the case—as long as I don’t have to access my VPN and play Xbox at the same time.

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]