Seven more Xbox 360 secrets Microsoft doesn't tell you

Xbox ring of light

We whetted your appetite with 10 Xbox 360 tricks Microsoft won't tell you, now here are seven more handy tips to help you get the best out of your console.

1. System updates by disc

Not got your console online yet, or having trouble downloading the latest dashboard update? Try downloading it from a web-connected PC or Mac instead and burning it to a CD. Grab the latest (well, latest-ish - hopefully Microsoft will update the page soon) update from the XBox 360 System Updates page, burn it to disc, then pop that disc into the 360 and turn it on. You'll be prompted automatically as to whether you want to run the update.

2. The towel trick

Bit of a controversial one this, at least as long as you count "possibly burning your house down" as controversial. What it is is a short-term fix for the infamous red rings of death, the mournful LEDs that announce your 360 is deaded. There are various theories about why it works, but the important thing is that, for some people, it does. The way to do it is to wrap the console in a towel or two - ensuring all sides of it are covered - then turn it on and leave it running for 10 minutes or so. Then turn it off, remove the towels, turn it on again and pray. If it's worked, it'll only stay alive for a few hours, but doing this a couple of times may be enough to get you through those long, lonely days while you wait for Microsoft to collect and replace your dead Xbox. Again though, it's dangerous - it could damage the console further, and could cause enough heat to set stuff on fire.

3. Clear the cache

Is your 360 dawdling along like a gin-addled pensioner? It's possible its hard drive is full up with junk files from old games and downloads - a spring clean could work wonders. There's a hidden function to clear out the cache, though be warned it'll delete any game patches too, so you'll probably have to redownload a few. Head to the System blade, select memory, HD, then press Y. Next, hit X, X, Left Bumper, Right Bumper, X and X. You should get a message about maintenance. Don't expect miracles, but if a game's been slowing down mysteriously lately, this could cure it, plus free up some extra space on your HD.

4. Makeshift web-browsing

Microsoft's continued refusal to add a web browser to the 360 is infuriating, but there are a few ways to stare at the internet with your console if you've also got a PC in the house and on the same network, and running either Windows XP Media Center or Vista Home Premium/Ultimate. There are several ways to do it, but perhaps the easiest is the MCE Browser plug-in. It's somewhat limited, but set it up on your Media Center PC then configure your 360 as a Media Extender and you can access your favourite web pages from it.

5. Stream Netflix movies

One for US 360 owners only, this. Again thanks to Windows Media Center and a free third-party plug-in called vmcNetflix you can save yourself from picking up an expensive set-top box to stream downloaded Netflix movies, as well as being able to manage your queue and set up new downloads from your PC. Install it, configure your 360 as a Media Center Extender and you're away.

6. Quieten the damn thing down

The 360's heat issues are well known, but they don't mean the box has to quite as noisy as it is. That's down to Microsoft using the cheapest fans it can get its hands on, which make an awful racket and are quite a distraction when you're watching a movie. If you're prepared to neuter your warranty, you can replace them with near-silent third-party jobs, such as the Talismoon WhisperFan. Go to real extremes with a complete replacement case, the Lian Li XB-01. Unfortunately, neither of these will silence the roar of the DVD drive, but once the upcoming dashboard update introduces installing games to the console's hard drive, that'll be less of a problem.

7. Insert special characters in your gamer profile

Oh, boring, boring text. Why can't we make our Gamercards a bit flashier? Fortunately, there is a way, but unfortunately it involves screwing around with Far Eastern languages. It's a bit of a complex process to explain in words alone, but this video made by a helpful soul will guide you through the entire process.

Read TechRadar's 10 Xbox 360 tricks Microsoft won't tell you